AFRE Alumna Receives McDonald’s President’s Award for Sustainable Strategies

AFRE master’s alumna Kendra Levine has received the McDonald’s President’s Award, given to the top one percent of employees globally, for her tireless work on a global sustainability sourcing guide.

Kendra Levine in front of potatoes, Michigan State University Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics

AFRE master’s alumna Kendra Levine has received the McDonald’s President’s Award, given to the top one percent of employees globally, for her tireless work on a global sustainability sourcing guide. Now as McDonald’s North America Sustainability Manager, Levine oversees the company’s climate action strategy in North America and is driving large-scale impact.

The McDonald’s President’s Award award celebrates high achieving individuals who, through ongoing purposeful collaboration and helping others shine, also inspire and enable those around them to deliver better results.

“I’m thrilled to have received this,” said Levine. “It's a huge honor personally and it demonstrates how much the company values our progress in sustainability.”

Levine has had a history of creating change around the world; from leading One Acre Fund projects in Kenya to working with smallholder farmers in Guatemala, Levine found success in international development, before deciding to obtain her MS degree from the department of AFRE.

“I thought I wanted to get my degree and then go directly back into international development,” said Levine. “But once at AFRE, I had space to think about other ways I could have an impact.”

After Levine realized that working for a large food company that demanded sustainable practices within their supply chain could create a significant impact on the environment and people, she changed her focus to agribusiness, took and shadowed classes in MSU’s business school, and interned in MSU’s purchasing department as a sustainable sourcing coordinator. All this preparation landed her at one of the largest food corporations in the world — McDonald’s — a place where Levine could truly enact change.

“In my role now, we’re trying to flip the popular narrative that ‘big is bad.’ Because we’re large, when we make a change, we can catalyze a huge impact,” said Levine. McDonald’s new sustainability platform, Scale for Good, will focus on five major areas where they believe they can have the most impact including beef sustainability, packaging and recycling, youth employability, families and children’s nutrition, and climate action.  

Levine now leads the development of McDonald’s North American climate strategy to meet the science-based climate target the company publicly announced in March 2018. In the target, McDonald’s and Levine’s team committed to a reduction in greenhouse gases at the amount necessary for them to their part to keep the global temperatures from rising, which amounts to a 36% greenhouse gases reduction in their restaurants and 31% in their supply chain by 2030. Levine is also fleshing out the guidelines and metrics to measure the impacts of their McCafe Sustainability Improvement Platform (SIP), an initiative that supports McDonald’s aims to source 100 percent of their coffee sustainably by 2020.

“My work is an extension of what I’m passionate about,” said Levine. “And the things I do outside of work continue to reflect that through involvement with national and local environmental and social organizations.” Levine is a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters, is on the Associate Board of Allow Good, and is engaged in her neighborhood environmental justice organization, PERRO.

With the potential to make huge strides in corporate stewardship, Levine is “excited to be at the helm of these new initiatives.”

“Climate change was the first sustainability issue I was passionate about as a child, and now, I’m leading a climate strategy at one of the largest restaurant companies in the world.”

Learn more about Kendra Levine and McDonald’s sustainability initiatives.

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