Contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Three McDonald's employees smiling and working together

Much of what we and our Franchisees do – provide fulfilling employment with opportunity for continuing education, help reduce waste, more sustainably manage natural resources and address climate change – has the potential to contribute to sustainable development.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a global agenda established in 2015 to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. We are proud to support this call to action and, through our work, we believe we are directly and indirectly contributing to a more equal and sustainable future for everyone.

McDonald’s contributes to many of the agenda’s 17 goals through our System, our scale and our collaborations. This page focuses on select SDGs, and the targets that underpin them, through which we have some of the largest impact.

 

 

Our Positive Impacts on the SDGs

SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

The Global Context

Disparities in access to education, technical and vocational skills development, and decent jobs persist around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is set to reverse recent progress toward equitable education outcomes, with vulnerable groups being less able to adjust to remote learning. Due to the impacts of the pandemic, the UN has estimated that 101 million children and young people fell below the minimum reading proficiency level in 2020.

Considering this issue, the role of organizations to promote and provide equitable learning opportunities is vital. McDonald’s, together with its Franchisees, sees education as a necessary tool to support and empower our respective employees, enabling us to foster a culture of lifelong learning. 

Find out more about SDG 4 on the UN SDGs website.

 

The Most Relevant SDG 4 Target for McDonald’s

SDG Target 4.4: By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship

 

What McDonald’s Is Doing

Our Signature Learning Approach

We believe that opportunity starts with education, which is why we’re committed to offering equitable access to opportunity so that McDonald’s Company-owned restaurant employees, as well as Franchisees and eligible employees from their organizations, feel empowered to reach their potential.

With eight global campuses and a 60-year legacy of training restaurant employees, Hamburger University (HU) has served as our platform from which to roll out McDonald’s signature learning and development approach. Through HU, we provide training for Company-owned restaurant employees, as well as Franchisees and eligible employees from their organizations. Through in-person and online learning, we prepare thousands of students for leadership positions in the restaurant industry.

In addition, to ensure restaurant teams are supported from their first day, we are modernizing the delivery of our learning and development tools through easy-to-access, inclusive content that leverages advanced technologies to meet learners where they are. This includes pivoting from traditional training programs to simulation and gamified offerings that support microlearning, as well as translating all training to support learning in native languages.

 

Ongoing Educational Support for Restaurant Staff

In many regions, McDonald’s and participating Franchisees are combining workplace training and study, and offering apprenticeship programs at various levels, so that people of all ages and at all stages of their professional journey can build a career, regardless of previous experience or qualifications.

Archways to Opportunity is a comprehensive education program in the U.S. that offers eligible employees the opportunity to graduate from college, earn a high school diploma, learn English as a second language and gain access to academic and career advising services.

 

Since 2015, Archways to Opportunity has increased access to education for more than 72,000 people as of year-end 2021. Through the program, more than $165 million was awarded to 55,000 restaurant employees for college tuition assistance.

 

In the U.K. and Ireland, McDonald’s industry-leading program offers apprenticeships for crew members, customer experience leaders, shift leaders and salaried managers, and has produced over 19,500 qualified apprentices to date.

 

Reducing Barriers to Employment for Young People

The Youth Opportunity program was created by McDonald’s with one objective in mind: reducing barriers to employment for young people. Youth Opportunity helps participants overcome these barriers through pre-employment job-readiness training, employment opportunities and workplace development programs.

Our goal is to impact 2 million young people by 2025, in partnership with the International Youth Foundation, which has three decades of experience in youth development around the world. Since the Youth Opportunity program launched in 2018, approximately 1.3 million young people have participated in training programs and/or been hired in McDonald’s Company-owned or franchised restaurants.

Find out more about our skills development and youth opportunity efforts on our Talent & Benefits and Community Impact pages.

SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all

The Global Context

Even before the pandemic, the UN estimated that one in five countries was likely to see per capita incomes stagnate or decline. But the economic and financial shocks associated with COVID-19 have caused a recession, with job losses, disrupted industrial production, falling commodity prices and market volatility. Collaborative efforts are needed to drive sustained and inclusive economic growth, create employment and improve living standards. 

 

McDonald’s Corporation and its majority-owned subsidiaries employ approximately 200,000 people in corporate offices and Company-owned restaurants globally as of year-end 2021. More than 2 million people around the world work within a McDonald’s-brand restaurant. We also have a complex supply chain with thousands of direct suppliers employing thousands of people in over 100 countries.

 

We believe our scale and reach present significant opportunities to contribute to full and productive employment and decent work around the world. This starts by having human rights policies and standards in place across our supply chain and restaurants – both Company-owned and franchised. Building from that, we provide competitive compensation to Corporate Staff and Company-owned restaurant employees and reduce barriers to employment for young people.

Find out more about SDG 8 on the UN SDGs website.

 

The Most Relevant SDG 8 Targets for McDonald’s

SDG Target 8.5: By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value

Target 8.6: By 2020, substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training

SDG Target 8.7: Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labor in all its forms

SDG Target 8.8: Protect labor rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment

 

What McDonald’s Is Doing

Respecting Human Rights  

We believe that businesses like McDonald’s have a responsibility to respect human rights within their sphere of influence – and we take that responsibility seriously. We know we can be a force for good in communities and empower our business partners and suppliers to do the same.

 

Preventing Forced Labor

McDonald’s does not engage in human trafficking or exploitation and works diligently to prevent the importation of goods tainted by slavery or human trafficking, conducting heightened human rights due diligence in higher risk geographies. The Company is committed to the elimination of any forced labor in our business and our supply chain. The Company does not use any form of slave, forced, bonded, indentured or involuntary prison labor.

At a minimum, we require all suppliers and their facilities to meet the standards and promote the principles outlined in our Supplier Code of Conduct. We expect, and provide guidance to assist, our suppliers to meet the standards for human rights, workplace environment, business integrity and environmental management contained in our Code. This includes holding their own supply chains to the same standards in these areas. Fundamental to our Code is an expectation of ethical employment practices by our suppliers and their supply chain, including subcontractors and third-party labor agencies. Our Code clearly prohibits any form of slave, forced, bonded, indentured or involuntary prison labor.

 

Safe & Respectful Workplaces

We are committed to prioritizing safety in all our corporate offices and Company-owned restaurants around the world, as well as supporting our Franchisees in doing the same in the restaurants they own and operate. Our Global Brand Standards help foster safe, respectful and inclusive workplaces that protect the physical and psychological safety of crew and customers.

The Standards focus on four key areas: protecting employee health and safety; preventing workplace violence; preventing harassment, discrimination and retaliation; and listening through restaurant employee feedback. All Company-owned and franchised restaurants must implement these standards and, starting in 2022, are assessed on each criterion in accordance with the applicable McDonald’s market’s business evaluation processes.

 

Compensation and Pay

In order to attract and retain talent at all levels of the business, we provide competitive compensation commensurate with an employee’s position. We introduced our Global Pay Principles to our owned markets in 2019, to ensure that good pay practices are consistently implemented for all Company employees. We prioritize equal pay for equal work through our goal to close pay gaps identified in annual equal pay analyses, further demonstrating our contribution to SDG 8.

 

Youth Opportunity

By increasing the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills for employment (SDG 4), our Youth Opportunity program will reduce the proportion of youth who are not employed and offer opportunities to have a decent job and promote economic growth (SDG 8). Our goal is to impact 2 million young people by 2025, in partnership with the International Youth Foundation, which has three decades of experience in youth development around the world. Since the Youth Opportunity program launched in 2018, approximately 1.3 million young people have participated in training programs and/or been hired in McDonald’s Company-owned or franchised restaurants.

For related topics, also see our pages about our commitments to Human Rights, Safe & Respectful Workplaces, Talent & Benefits, Diversity Equity & Inclusion and Community Impact.

SDG 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

The Global Context

The rise in global consumption and production associated with economic and social progress can negatively impact the natural systems on which we depend. To reverse current trends and make our consumption and production patterns more sustainable, we need to do more with less. According to the UN Environment Program, this will require us to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation by increasing resource efficiency and promoting sustainable lifestyles.

We are investing in and engaging with strategic partnerships to advance circularity in our communities. By offering meals that are more sustainably produced, we have the opportunity to help customers feel even better about their choice to visit McDonald’s restaurants. With our global reach, we can provide accessible waste management solutions in our restaurants and connect with communities on these issues.

Find out more about SDG 12 on the UN SDGs website.

 

The Most Relevant SDG 12 Targets for McDonald’s

SDG Target 12.2: By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources

SDG Target 12.5: By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse

What McDonald’s Is Doing

Our packaging and waste strategy focuses on reducing materials used and switching to renewable, recycled or certified sources, advancing a more circular economy and scaling up recycling systems. We are a part of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) ReSource: Plastic coalition and the Foodservice Packaging Institute’s Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group – multi-brand coalitions working together to keep plastic waste out of the environment and to recycle foodservice packaging.

We co-founded the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and are developing a Beef Climate Roadmap with input from suppliers, NGOs, academics and other experts across the sector. Our Flagship Farmers Program recognizes producers who are leading the industry with pioneering sustainability practices and enables them to share such best practices. We are also driving progress toward sustainable consumption and production in other priority areas of our supply chain through targeted activities and policies that drive lasting, meaningful outcomes. Examples of these actions include:

 

  • Continuing to have 100% of the soy sourced for feed of chicken used in our products support deforestation-free supply chains.

  • Developing policies for sourcing only Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee from areas that are deemed high-deforestation-risk zones.

  • Establishing multi-stakeholder roundtable groups focused on sustainable beef in many markets around the world.

  • Partnering with organizations such as the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, Conservation International and the Marine Stewardship Council to help play a role in improving the sustainability of the global whitefish sector.

 

To address food waste, many of our suppliers and Franchisees donate meals and excess ingredients, turn used cooking oil into fuel for our delivery trucks and are exploring ways to further repurpose food waste.

In 2021:

 

  • 100% of palm oil sourced for McDonald’s restaurants and used as an ingredient in McDonald’s products supported the production of sustainable palm oil and deforestation-free supply chains.

  • 97.6% of our primary fiber-based guest packaging was sourced from recycled or certified sources.

  • We sourced 98.7% of our ground and whole bean coffee from sustainable and certified suppliers.

  • We partnered with Cargill, the Nature Conservancy and Target, investing in regenerative agriculture practices in Nebraska, U.S., to support soil health and biodiversity.

  • We worked on our regenerative agriculture program with 60 wheat farmers in France, aiming to plant 230,000 trees by 2030.

  • In 2021, McDonald’s USA and its suppliers in the U.S. donated over 10.1 million pounds of food from suppliers and distribution centers – worth more than $13.1 million – to support local charities and communities.

  • McDonald’s Australia donated the equivalent of 458,700 meals and 870 kilograms of grocery items as part of a long-standing partnership with local foodbanks.

  • In our top 35 markets, on average 35% of McDonald's restaurants offer guests the opportunity to recycle packaging items.

  • We deployed alternatives to plastic cutlery in several markets, including transitioning to wooden cutlery in Australia, Europe, China and India. This has led to an estimated reduction of over 2,600 metric tons of plastic annually.

 

Find out more about our efforts to reduce food loss and waste across our value chain on our Responsible Sourcing, Nature, Forests & Water and Packaging, Toys & Waste pages.

SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

The Global Context

Climate change impacts every country, with rising temperatures and sea levels, and more extreme weather events disrupting national economies and affecting lives. The 2015 Paris Agreement sought to strengthen the global response by keeping the rise in global temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. As outlined by the UN Environment Program, although greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fell during the pandemic as a result of travel bans and economic slowdowns, they are rising again as economies recover and the need to address the climate emergency remains urgent.

At McDonald’s, we believe we have a responsibility to be part of the solution to this global issue. We are embracing the unique opportunity we have – as a brand of global scale – to mobilize the entire McDonald’s System to act now and be a catalyst of change across the world. Climate change has the potential to pose risks to the resilience of our food supply and to the communities where we source and operate. While taking action on climate change is challenging and requires investment, collaboration and innovation, we recognize the importance this collective action holds to ensure a brighter, better world for the future.

Find out more about SDG 13 on the UN SDGs website.

 

The Most Relevant SDG 13 Target for McDonald’s

SDG Target 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning

 

What McDonald’s Is Doing

Through partnership and collaboration with our Franchisees, suppliers and producers, we have committed to reduce GHG emissions related to our restaurants and operations by 36% by 2030 from a 2015 baseline. We have also set a 2030 commitment to a 31% reduction in emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) across our supply chain from a 2015 baseline. As a member of the United Nations Race to Zero campaign, we are committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050 across our business and supply chain, for which we will continue to develop a longer-term emissions reduction and neutralization strategy. Additionally, we are committed to eliminating deforestation from our global supply chain by 2030, building on our momentum and action to support deforestation-free supply chains for our highest priority commodities by 2020.

We are working with suppliers, NGOs and climate experts to address our supply chain footprint, relying on third-party certifications for our soy, palm oil, coffee and fiber. Where such certifications do not yet exist, we invest in external monitoring and verification systems.

We are creating more sustainable and efficient restaurants by investing in more energy- and water-efficient equipment, renewable electricity and energy management systems.

In 2021:

 

  • 97.7% of our priority commodities (beef, chicken (soy in feed), palm oil, coffee and packaging) supported deforestation-free supply chains.

  • Our CEO joined panels and roundtables with other leaders to share notable developments and to discuss the importance of addressing climate change on a global stage at COP26.

  • We released our inaugural Climate Risk & Resiliency Summary, guided by recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

  • As of the end of 2021, we have achieved a 10.2% reduction in the absolute GHG emissions of our restaurants and offices, and a 9.1% reduction in supply chain GHG emissions intensity, compared to 2015 baseline figures.

 

Find out more about our climate mitigation efforts on our Climate Action and Responsible Sourcing pages.