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The World's First Climate-Positive Burgers: Max Burgers Now Help Fight Climate Change

Image credit: Max Burgers

This morning, from the main stage at SB’18 Vancouver, Max Burgers’ Chief Sustainability Officer, Kaj Török, announced that the Swedish burger chain is set to offer the world’s first climate-positive burgers. Török said that customers will soon be able to “take a bite that’s good for the planet as well as their taste-buds” when eating at the quick-serve burger chain, and urged other companies to join Max in going climate positive. 

The climate-positive menu will be launched on the company’s 50th anniversary on the 14th June, across all 130 stores in Northern Europe and the Middle East. According to the company, customers will then be eating burgers that have 110 percent of their climate emissions offset — meaning every Max Burger sold will help fight climate change.



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“First, we measure all our emissions — from the farmers’ land to our guests’ hand, as well as lots of other things like waste, and consumer travel to and from the restaurant,” Török explained in a recent interview. “The second step is to make every effort to reduce emissions. We add new approaches and solutions all the time to find ways to make reductions, like the Green Family range. Thirdly, and only after making all the reductions we can, we plant trees to offset all remaining emissions. We then go a step further to capture the carbon dioxide equivalent of another 10 percent of emissions. That’s to ensure that we can contribute to reducing the overall levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And all of this independently reviewed and done according to international standards.” 

Climate-positive burgers are just the latest innovation for the company in its mission to tackle climate change. In 2008, it was the world's first restaurant chain to put carbon footprinting on the menu. At the same time, it started an offsetting scheme in Africa, which the company says has now planted 1.5 million trees. That’s equivalent to covering 4,700 football fields with trees or removing 180,000 petrol cars from the road for one year. 

In a further drive to reduce emissions, it launched its Green Family range in 2016, introducing a range of plant-based burgers to the menu. An ambitious target to increase purchase of non-red meat meals to one-third of its revenue by 2020 was set, which it achieved by years-end. A revised goal, to increase non-red-meat consumption to 50 percent of sales by 2022, was announced last year.

According to Török, achieving this goal will help the company decrease its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent, from 2015 levels. And with the latest results showing that it’s nearing 40 percent of sales of non-red meat purchases, Max is well on target.

The new climate-positive burger is therefore a complementary approach to a host of initiatives at Max Burgers. The company is always wanting to do more on climate change, Török says. “But going climate neutral is not enough if we want to meet the 2-degree Paris Agreement. We want to go further and help remove additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is what carbon positive is all about.”

Kaj Török announces "Climate Positive" on Tuesday at SB'18 Vancouver | Image credit: Sustainable Brands

Max Burgers is also looking at other offsetting ideas that could offer future promise. For example, it is participating in a pilot biochar project where food waste from one its restaurants is converted into biochar by pyrolysis and then spread on fields. There are hopes it can improve soil fertility, as well as act as a future carbon-capture solution. 

In response to any criticisms about the climate-positive burger being just a ‘feel-good’ gimmick, Török replied: “Carbon offsetting doesn’t buy us a clear conscience. Instead, it is a self-imposed carbon tax that provides us with an incentive to continue reducing our emissions. Through our carbon offsetting, we take direct responsibility for our emissions while working hard to reduce our impact. It is both, rather than one or the other. Everyone must do as much as they can to contribute to meeting global climate goals.”

Török also pointed out that a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions come from land use change and deforestation, and that agriculture and food production are the main drivers behind this: “It’s especially important for those of us in the food industry to replace the trees that have disappeared.”

Max Burgers wants to inspire others to get onboard with the climate-positive idea and create climate-positive products: Along with MEVO, a New Zealand car-sharing company with a climate-positive carpool service, Max has launched clippop.org —  a website where consumers can find climate-positive products and services, to help and encourage more companies to join the climate-positive movement by 2022.

"We believe that climate positive is the new goal for every brand committed to climate action,” Török said. “And, if a burger company can do it, then so can you." 


Dr Alison Watson is an independent sustainability consultant and freelance writer based in Singapore. She is currently researching and writing on sustainable protein innovation and entrepreneurship.

[Read more about Alison Watson]


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