A coalition of environmental, social justice, and animal welfare groups announced a campaign this week calling on Olive Garden and its parent company, Darden Restaurant Inc. (DRI), the nation’s largest full-service restaurant employer, to do more to protect animals, the environment and workers by substantially improving food sourcing and labor practices. Darden is a leading casual-dining company with $6.7 billion in sales. It also is the nation’s largest full-service restaurant employer with more than 1,500 restaurants worldwide.
The campaign is a partnership of Friends of the Earth, Restaurant Opportunities Center-United, the Food Chain Workers Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Green America and the Animal Welfare Institute. More than 50 organizations have signed onto a letter calling for Darden to improve its labor practices and make a commitment to source 20% of its purchases under environmental, health, labor and animal welfare criteria aligned with the Good Food Purchasing Policy, including reducing meat and dairy purchases by 20%; sourcing meat from producers that adhere to verifiable, higher-than-industry animal welfare standards; and increasing local and organic options. More details of the campaign’s goals are outlined here.
A spokesperson for Friends of the Earth said the campaign “is the first of its kind to bring environmental, worker justice, animal welfare and public health concerns under one umbrella.”
The organizations previously contacted Darden in October and November 2015, asking for a meeting to discuss the campaign’s requests. However, in a written response issued in December, Darden failed to acknowledge many of the key issues raised by the organizations. Core members of the campaign issued a detailed response outlining the specifics on how the restaurant company could fulfill its position on social and environmental responsibility contained in the company’s 2014 social responsibility report.