David Novak - the CEO of Yum Brands, owners of KFC - was awarded best CEO of the year last night at a dinner event at New York’s stock exchange. This won’t be a surprise in corporate circles: after 15 years at the company and releasing his own book on management, Taking People With You, Novak is known for his leadership.
We have to question though what real leadership actually looks like, the company group Novak heads seems to have no problem with rainforests being trashed for KFC’s throw-away packaging.
We would also question what Novak really means by ‘taking people with you’, as we see Yum systematically ignoring people around the world, including their customers, who are calling for rainforest protection.
Whether Mr Novak acknowledges it or not, Indonesian rainforests, which are home to endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger and a critical defense against climate change, are sadly ending up in KFC’s chicken buckets and french fries holders.
Both Yum and KFC, one of their best known brands around the world, need to put in place policies to exclude rainforest destruction from their supply chains.
Instead, Yum seems to shy away from such a decision. KFC has just cancelled a meeting at the eleventh hour with US environmental group Dogwood Alliance. This meeting had been scheduled in May this year to discuss a sustainable packaging policy for KFC, after Novak himself called for it at Yum’s shareholders meeting. Surely enlisting the help of credible sustainability experts like Dogwood would be a good idea?
As with Dogwood, Yum has ignored Greenpeace’s letters and attempts to start a dialogue for years – and since launching our most recent campaign exposing rainforests in KFC’s packaging, they have simply denied any involvement with Indonesia rainforest destroyer Asia Pulp and Paper, despite our independent evidence.
Novak’s refusal to talk with critics is a major weakness that this award risks covering up. He is lagging behind his peers at Timberland, McDonald’s, Unilever and Nestlé who have not only taken on board similar criticisms but used it to develop stronger corporate policy to protect rainforests, which has ultimately strengthened their brands and reduced their exposure to risk.
Novak is also lagging behind PT Fast Food Indonesia Tbk (FAST), the exclusive KFC franchise holder in Indonesia. It committed to address the issues of deforestation in its supply chain and suspend purchases from Asia Pulp and Paper earlier in July.
Yum and Novak could come out stronger as a result of listening to NGOs and offering real solutions. They have a lot to gain from developing a coherent plan to tackle Yum’s impact on deforestation.
That’s the leadership that’s trending amongst forward thinking corporations. That’s the leadership that Yum's customers want to see from Novak. We will continue to provide those customers with a way to send Novak that message in our revolt to stop KFC turning rainforests into trash.