An investor group managing some $6.5 trillion on Tuesday called on six of the world's largest fast food restaurants, including McDonald's, KFC and Burger King, to reduce their planet-harming greenhouse gas emissions and water use.
Companies selling burgers, chicken and milk products are trailing behind other high-emitting industries, like carmakers, in setting targets to clean up their supply chains and help meet the Paris Agreement to limit global warming, campaigners say.
More than 80 investors - members of Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR), a network educating investors - wrote to the fast food giants calling on them to publicly set and monitor targets on GHG emissions and freshwater impacts.
"Fast-food giants deliver speedy meals, but they have been super slow in responding to their out-sized environmental footprints," said Mindy Lubber, head of Ceres, which lobbies for greener business practices and is backing the initiative.
McDonald's told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that it set a target in 2018 to reduce emissions by 2030 that would be the "equivalent of taking 32 million passenger cars off the road for an entire year."
Yum Brands - the owners of KFC - and Restaurant Brands International - the owners of Burger King - did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Investors are increasingly judging companies according to ethical, sustainable and governance criteria, which they say are important factors in company performance.
Livestock - largely cattle raised for beef and milk - are responsible for about 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says.
But two-thirds of the world's largest, publicly listed meat and livestock companies do not have targets for reducing their emissions, says FAIRR, which includes Canada's BMO Global Asset Management and Britain's Aviva Investors.
"Investors who have signed on believe these risks threaten the long term viability of the quick service restaurant sector," said Aarti Ramachandran, London-based FAIRR's head of research.
"The fact that investors with $6.5 trillion signed on is an indicator of how important this issue is," she said, adding that some of the investors have fast food companies - a sector worth $570 billion - in their portfolios.