Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fast Food in the Third World

For most of my life in the developing world, fast food has been a luxury item for the rest of the population. For most families in Metro Manila, getting everyone to eat together inside a fast food outlet on a Sunday after mass is oftentimes the only luxury an average family could afford. In lower income communities, this could happen rarely in the course of the year. The opposite is true in the developing world, with a fast-paced life, fast food became a source of convenience and the consumption rate is faster.

This condition is never a reason for fast food companies to become less socially and environmentally responsible once they operate in the context of a third world economy where monitoring of environmental standards is much more lenient. However, the core structure that made a fast food successful is in terms of speed, quality food and low price is the structure that makes it unsustainable since it utilizes so much resources and produces too much wastes within the course of its life cycle.

The current trend in developing countries had been returning to community-based lifestyles where the supply chain is limited among local producers and benefits are reaped by local consumers. In doing so, the impacts of products are not magnified. Community-based fast food had always been the practice in the Third World where street vendors with minimal impacts on the supply chain, using local produce and serving local produce had been in existence for ages. Yes, street vendors do have impacts on the environment and even on public health but the magnitude of its environmental impacts is only a fraction of what is expected from a major fast food chain.

It will be very difficult for fast food companies to let go of the western standard and revert back to the community-based approach to doing business, it has to become a long and steady process and like the American Auto Industry, the fast food is still in its learning stages when it comes to sustainability, lesson as an industry is never to say that you already have a PhD when you are still grappling with the hormonal changes of middle school that's a blatant lie and in terms of environmental efforts you basically call that greenwash.