January 20, 2022
A More Sustainable Future: Inside McDonald's Commitment to Renewable Energy
We only have one planet. And we believe it's up to all of us to ensure the world is both safe and livable for future generations. But individual action can only go so far.
To truly help protect the environment and stave off the effects of climate change, businesses need to get involved. They need to evaluate their current practices, actively examine their role in causing environmental harm, and consider how they can mitigate damage. This is a guiding pillar for McDonald's.
With over 40,000 global locations in over 100 countries, we are one of the largest restaurant companies in the world – and we recognize that our actions can have a significant impact on the planet. That's why we take action on some of the world's most pressing social and environmental challenges.
Here’s a look at some of our biggest commitments to date and a preview of what we hope to do in the years to come.
Reaching for Net Zero by 2050 and Setting a Science-Based Target
In 2021, McDonald’s pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and join the United Nations Race to Zero Campaign. Before that, in 2018, we became the first restaurant company in the world to set a science-based target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Working with the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a collaborative coalition dedicated to institutionalizing and establishing frameworks for environmental protection, has already resulted in an 8.5% reduction in the absolute emissions of restaurant and offices and a 5.9% decrease in supply chain emissions intensity against a 2015 baseline.
Renewable energy plays a critical role in meeting these targets, alongside sourcing our food in responsible ways, waste reduction, and recycling. By setting these targets, we can begin to communicate more details on how we intend to achieve these commitments. We know what we need to do, and where we need to be; all that remains is getting there.
Adding Renewable Energy to the Grid
Last year, McDonald’s and eBay teamed up to announce an agreement with Lightsource bp to purchase power from what will be Louisiana’s largest solar project. Once complete, the project is expected to generate over 600,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy annually – that’s equivalent to the average annual consumption of 59,000 US homes.
In 2019 and 2020, McDonald’s completed a total of five virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs). VPPAs are investments that increase renewable energy capacity by helping to build renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar farms, ultimately adding renewable energy to the nation’s power grid.
Those five new wind and solar projects are expected to have a total capacity of 1130 megawatts. That’s enough to power about 8,000 McDonald’s restaurants. The solar panels alone would cover the surface area of New York’s Central Park seven times. Once these projects are complete, we expect them to add considerable progress to our SBTi emissions goals.
Constructing Net-Zero Blueprints
In the past two years, we unveiled two new innovative Net Zero-designed restaurants in Orlando, Florida and in the UK’s Market Drayton. The flagship location in Orlando is completely self-sustainable, generating all of its power from its own sources of renewable energy. Utilizing solar panels, solar glass panels, green spaces, kinetic bikes, and low-flow plumbing fixtures, this location is one of the first restaurants in the world designed to have Net Zero status.
Meanwhile, the UK’s first net zero carbon-designed restaurant is partially powered by solar panels and wind turbines, and the building cladding is crafted from recycled IT equipment and household appliances. Even the drive-thru lane is made from recycled tires, which produce less carbon dioxide and allow more water to be absorbed. Innovations from this revolutionary restaurant will start to be rolled out in new McDonald’s restaurants built in the UK from this year.
It's not just in our restaurants that are committed to sustainable energy. Our partnered organizations, too, are just as focused on protecting the environment as we are. Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), for instance, incorporates sustainable design principles and features in 100% of all new RMHC construction, including the addition of 10 new Ronald McDonald House programs in 2021.
RMHC Chapters around the world are committed to achieving the best use of resources. From energy and water efficiency to materials selection and waste management, RMHC is further advancing mission delivery by creating healthy indoor and outdoor spaces that promote well-being for guest families, staff and volunteers.
Across all seven RMHC Global Regions, Chapters are continually incorporating sustainability into their operations through a mix of government grants, donor-funded technologies, and partnerships. Some of the Charity’s key sustainability initiatives include:
Solar water heating
Reduced water consumption via low-flow appliances and low-water native plants in landscaping
Partnered purchases of off-site renewable energy
Our Commitment To A More Sustainable Future
McDonald's is one of the world's largest restaurant chains. Everything we do leaves a lasting impact. We believe it is our responsibility to ensure our impact is a positive one.
That's why we're so committed to using our scale for good. Why we're working to promote sustainability, renewability, and environmental care. Because at the end of the day, we only have one planet.
And it's up to all of us to work together in protecting it.