Creating the change we wish to see in the world can take time. But as Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said, “patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet.” Lever’s engagements with RBI, one of the world’s largest quick service restaurant groups, proves just that. 

In an example of how prolonged, hands-on engagement can create real change over time, Lever Foundation helped Restaurant Brands International— which owns Burger King, Popeye’s, and Tim Hortons—set landmark commitments to ban battery cages and sow crates across its global supply chain, with additional commitments on other species in its supply chain under development.

In December of 2018 Lever released an investigation into Burger King’s battery cage egg suppliers in Asia, which generated significant print and television media coverage in Miami where the company’s corporate headquarters is located. That initial pressure opened the door in 2019 to a collaborative relationship with RBI’s Asia team on sourcing cage-free eggs in that region. In early 2020, RBI’s global office enlisted Lever to carry out extensive research into suppliers, regulations, auditing, and consumer attitudes on cage-free eggs on a country-by-country basis across Asia, the Middle East, and several additional regions. Ultimately, Lever produced and provided over 100 pages of supplier directories and market analysis to RBI on the issue.

While RBI had been skeptical it could set a timeline for ending caged eggs in certain areas (particularly Asia), these resources shifted their view. In August of 2020, RBI informed Lever it had now set internal timelines for going cage-free globally, and that it planned to share its policy publicly by the end of the year after more communication with its licensees. Regular meetings with RBI continued, and Lever was able to steer RBI to an earlier commitment date for certain markets and to have the new policy cover all egg ingredients. True to its timeline, in December RBI added the new policy to its website—the largest restaurant group to date to pledge to end cages globally.

With the cage-free policy in place, in late 2020 RBI enlisted Lever for similar research and assistance regarding the use of crates in its pork supply chain. This too culminated in the presentation of an extensive supply chain and animal welfare analysis on a country-by-country level across RBI’s key global markets. As a result, in April of 2021 RBI announced it would end the use of gestation crates for mother pigs globally, again making it the largest restaurant group to issue such a pledge. As was the case on the caged egg issue, Lever’s work helped the company overcome skepticism that it could make these commitments in Asia, Russia, and several other regions, and helped secure earlier commitment deadlines than initially planned for certain markets.

In the spring and summer of 2021, Lever continued to meet regularly with RBI and provide further resources to help the company set comprehensive new global welfare policies for other key species in the company’s supply chain. Given RBI’s 27,000 restaurants worldwide, the company’s already-published commitments will spare millions of egg-laying hens and pigs from the acute misery of cage and crate confinement.


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