THE NATURAL STEP

Max Hamburgers case study

MaxAbout Max Hamburgers

Max is not only Sweden’s favourite hamburger restaurant chain, it is also one of the first. Back in 1968, the founders Curt Bergfors and Britta Andersson opened their first restaurant in Gällivare in the northern part of Sweden. Today, Max is a global player with 120 restaurants and around 5,400 employees, operating worldwide and achieving turnover of more than 200 million euros. The most profitable restaurant chain in Sweden outperformed both McDonald’s and Burger King.

The founder Curt Bergfors is still active in the company as Chairman of the Board, and the family still owns 100 per cent of the company. Max Hamburger is the first quick-service restaurant chain in the world to adopt carbon-labelling and compensate for the food’s impact on the environment. To read more about their sustainability strategy please click here.

“As a restaurant we are part of the problem, but we want to be part of the solution. We want to be a role model for our industry. When we go public with how our meals affect the climate, our guests can help us to lower our joint impact”, says Richard Bergfors, President of Max Hamburger.

About the project

The challenge

In 2007, Pär Larshans, then Director of Human Resources at Max Hamburger Restaurants, was asked to investigate what other fast food chains were doing about climate change. He discovered that there wasn’t much to discover and Max saw an opportunity to break ahead of the pack. Fast food chains around the globe have received bad press for unhealthy food, poor working conditions and expansion models that run local alternatives out of business. On top of that, the meat industry is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gases worldwide, and Max Hamburger’s core business is hamburgers.

The result

Max critically analysed and optimised its way of operating globally, incorporating sustainability lessons into their leadership training programme for restaurant managers and cashiers. They put a lot of emphasis on social sustainability and hired people who had difficulties in entering the labour market. These efforts resulted in increased employee retention and pride in work.

Furthermore, the company de-carbonised and carbon-labelled their menus, giving the customer information and a choice to consume in a more environment-friendly manner. They have increased their profits by 500 per cent since 2003 and their customer loyalty by 27 per cent from 2007 to 2009. Max has earned national and international media attention and awards for their sustainability initiatives.

The Natural Step’s work

Max Hamburger’s bold leap forward as a sustainability champion was achieved with coaching from The Natural Step who took on the challenge of shifting a hamburger chain towards sustainability. The first question The Natural Step’s team asked Max to consider was: “Is a sustainable hamburger chain possible?” Instead of using a crystal ball, Max used The Natural Step’s Framework to answer this question by imagining what a sustainable Max could look like and crafting a strategy to move towards that future vision.

Max Hamburger’s Achievements

Max Hamburger became the first quick-service restaurant chain in the world which …

… analyses the food’s climate impact along the whole supply chain from farmer to guest;

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… labels menus so that guests can choose climate-friendly meals;

… voluntarily offsets carbon throughout its supply chain with reforestation projects in Africa. In addition, Max supports offsetting projects that strengthen local agro-forestry, entrepreneurship and ecosystem services.

A video and Selected quotes

Pär Larshans, Chief Sustainability Officer at Max Hamburger, speaking about leadership, sustainability and human rights:

“Our sustainability related activities have turned out to be one of our most profitable initiatives ever. Actually, to our surprise, they’ve turned out to be more profitable than opening up new restaurants.”

Richard Bergfors

Owner and President, Max Hamburger

“The Natural Step has helped us to take strategic steps towards sustainability, build confidence, competence and commitment in our top managers and communicate sustainability in a creative, clear and credible way.”

Pär Larshans

Director of Sustainability, Max Hamburger

“It has been a fantastic privilege to work with a company that is so willing and able to do something unique and important. Our role at The Natural Step has been to help Max to analyse, plan and prioritise so that their initiatives are strategic and demonstrate action towards sustainability. We have watched with astonishment how Max has delivered fast, smart and concrete results. We are thrilled to work with partners like these. Humanity desperately needs this kind of action-oriented champion for sustainability.”

Kaj Török

Advisor, The Natural Step

Shaping the future

Now that Max has advanced to become an industry leader in sustainable fast food, expectations have also grown. They will soon open new low-carbon restaurants and add more climate-friendly menu alternatives. Max aspires to inspire climate action amongst their guests while serving the juiciest and tastiest low-impact meat possible.

  • Restaurants powered by wind energy 100%
  • Fish produced by well managed eco-systems (MSC) 100%
  • Used fry oil converted into biodiesel 100%
  • Increased customer loyalty 27%
  • Relative increase in sales of low carbon products 15%

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