Chipotle works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Chipotle is setting science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is setting science-based greenhouse gas targets with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

The fast-casual restaurant chain is aiming to reduce absolute Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2030 from a 2019 base year. The approved targets have been classified by SBTi as being in line with a long-term global temperature increasing trajectory of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Chipotle is working third-party experts to actively develop the strategy for achieving and monitoring the company's science-based targets. To achieve these targets, Chipotle identified the four most carbon-intensive functions of its business to reduce emissions:

  • Restaurants: With a long-term goal of having 6,000 restaurants in North America, the company is continuing to identify more sustainable design and development. An ongoing pilot program explores scalable construction diversion to reclaim and recycle building materials for use in future remodels and buildouts. Chipotle also aims to reduce emissions through smart energy management systems (EMS) at its restaurants and partner with like-minded tenants to find efficiencies. Chipotle is also exploring purchasing renewable energy and integrating more efficient restaurant equipment.
  • Transportation and warehousing: Chipotle will leverage partners and technology to reduce emissions associated with the transportation and warehousing of its ingredients and products. Additionally, with Chipotle's digital business increasing, the company will identify emissions reduction strategies for third-party and white label delivery.
  • Food supply chain: In pursuit of its “Food with Integrity” goal, Chipotle will explore protein and animal management solutions and promote carbon-reducing practices for produce and other products within the supply chain.
  • Waste and packaging: The company will pursue closed-loop packaging solutions and leverage new market innovations to reduce its end-of-life impact. To further optimize responsible waste management, Chipotle is utilizing data to reduce overall waste, increase landfill diversion programs, and enhance food waste solutions.

"We are passionate about Cultivating a Better World and as a company with nearly 3,000 restaurants and approximately 95,000 employees, we have a responsibility to drive meaningful change," said Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs & food safety officer. "We are committed to continuous improvement and will actively do our part to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and protect the planet."

Earlier in 2021, Chipotle announced a new environmental, social and governance (ESG) metric that ties a portion of annual incentive executive compensation to ESG goals. The objectives, which are categorized by food & animals, people, and the environment, will hold Chipotle's executive leadership team responsible to make sustainable business decisions. Sharing Chipotle's Scope 3 emissions fulfills one of the brand's goals, which was originally announced for 2025 and later accelerated to 2021.

Another fast-casual restaurant chain, Panera Bread, recently announced a goal of becoming climate positive – removing more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits – by 2050.

Chipotle had nearly 2,900 restaurants as of Sept. 30, 2021, in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, and Germany, and is the only restaurant company of its size that owns and operates all its restaurants.