Climate on the Menu – Max Hamburgarrestauranger AB

Best Green International Campaign

“The INTERNATIONAL GREEN AWARDS™ was the start of several international recognitions MAX had as a company during 2009 and it even continues now in 2010. The green Award has also had a great impact on the peoples within the organization in that sentence that they really believe that we can make a difference. The nomination stated that MAX was given the award not for the marketing efforts, but for the importance of putting the carbon on the menu and by that being an example for the rest of the world. We have taken that as a challenge in our road to sustainability many years to follow!”

Pär Larshans,Director of Sustainability

Max Hamburgarrestauranger AB

Background & Objective

Three years ago Max Hamburgarrestauranger (Max) decided to step up our work for sustainability in general and climate issues in particular. Together with the international NGO The Natural Step they calculated, as the first restaurant chain in the world, the carbon emissions all the way from the farmers land to the guest’s hand. The total footprint was estimated to 27,000 tones carbon dioxide equivalents per year. MX also discovered that 70 % of the emissions emanated from the production of beef.


In 2008 they realized that they needed help from their guests to lessen the foods climate impact. Thus, Max decided to help the customers to pick more of the climate efficient items from the menu. This would help them to take charge of their own climate impact. And it would help them lower the foods impact and give them good feedback on what tomorrow’s climate smart food could look like. Using trees as a carbon offset method, instead of diffuse technology projects or similar, allowed concrete communication about what carbon equivalents means in practice.


Beef production has a huge climate impact. Max core product, Hamburgers, contain a lot of beef. So, how can they reinvent our menu to make it more sustainable?


The purposes of this campaign were to:

1. Inspire guests to choose climate smart alternatives on the menu.
2. Get guests to reflect on the climate impact of food in general.
3. Stand out as the best fast food restaurant choice for concerned guests.



Two common weaknesses in sustainability communications campaigns are that:
1. Users interacting with the brand/product do not experience sustainability characteristics.

2. Users do not understand the connection to sustainability. Therefore, they focused on the guests experience in the restaurants and to make it easy for them to see their climate impact.

The menu boards were our most important communications channel in the restaurants. They also used boards and tray liners to describe what they were doing and why.

Outside the restaurants Max used they own website and press releases. High level presentations at Sustainability/Food events were important to create word-of-mouth among opinion leaders.

The biggest negative environmental impact from this campaign probably came from the 12 million tray liners made of paper with printed messages on them. The print and paper were licensed according to The Nordic Ecolabel. Today, all Tray liners are also FSC-labeled. All restaurants recycle a number of fractions including these tray liners.

The menu boards are powered by 100 % wind energy (as are the rest of Max’s operations). All company vehicles are good environmental choices.

Max have also planted approximately 89,000 trees in Africa as Carbon Offsets for 2008 (Plan Vivo Certification). These offsets cover the climate impact all the way from the farmers land to the guest’s hand. It corresponds to 12 times the carbon footprint of Max own operations (Scope 1, Greenhouse Gas Protocol).



The primary audience was the restaurant guests. They come in all shapes, colors and ages.

Most of them are not specifically interested in environmental issues.

Secondary audiences were the Food industry and Opinion leaders within sustainable development. Journalists/media were of course important too.

Notes on the Swedish audiences:

In Sweden 70 % of the population actively want someone to show leadership in climate issues (politicians, companies or themselves). But only a low percentage actually does change behavior. One main barrier is because they find it hard make informed decisions. A growing number of consumers are looking intensively for best buys for sustainability.



As far as they can tell, Max became the first Restaurant ever to have done any of these three things:

1. Analyzed the foods total climate impact from the farmers land to the guest’s hand (grass to table).

2. To present this impact and promote climate smart alternatives to guests directly on the menu.

3. Made carbon offsets for all this climate impact. Communications related results are:

  • A 15 % relative increase in sales of climate smart alternatives from the menu.
  • Awareness survey 2007-2008: “Max is very committed about the environment” rose from 3 % to 11 % (Swedish population) and 5 % to 15 % (Max customers).
  • Invitations to give around 80 high level speeches at food/sustainability events.
  • A number of awards and prizes where collected, e. g. “The Green Capitalist of the year” by the leading Swedish business magazine Veckans Affärer (Business Week).
  • Food preference survey shows that Max as “first choice in fast food” increased from 18 % in 2007 to 21 % in 2008 (which is higher than McDonalds).
  • Scoring 100 % and “Best in test” in Sweden’s biggest environmental magazine Miljöaktuellt compared to head to head competitors such as McDonalds and Burger King.
  • 131 articles have been written by journalists on this subject to a PR-value of £340 000.



Campaign budget


Communications agencies ~ £30 000. Tray liners, menu boards, posters, etc: £43 000.
= £73 000 in total.


Not included are costs for work within Max, Sustainability advisors and carbon offsets. The last years overall sustainability expenses adds another ~ £700 000. They predict that they will save more than that only by ecoefficient measures within a few years. Then Max have not included any positive brand effects. If they just compare this campaigns cost with the PR-value from it (see results) they got a return on investment of 466%.