Human Rights

McDonald’s purpose is to feed and foster communities. Central to that purpose is respecting human rights wherever we do business.

Two McDonald's employees smiling at each other

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

We take seriously our responsibility to respect human rights throughout our value chain. Our commitment is set out in our Human Rights Policy, which is guided by the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the International Bill of Human Rights and the principles set out in the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

 

Our Business, Structure and Supply Chain

We are the world’s leading global foodservice retailer, with nearly 2 million people working within a Company-owned or franchised McDonald’s as of year-end 2021. Together with our Franchisees, we are committed to upholding human rights and cultivating respectful workplaces where everyone is empowered to realize their full potential.

The success of the McDonald’s System lies, in part, in our strong relationships with suppliers, all of whom must meet our expectations of fundamental rights for all people. We aim to build strong, long-term relationships with suppliers and work closely to maintain the highest standards around human rights. We require them to comply with our Supplier Code of Conduct and associated guidance, which include respect for human rights and following practices that protect their employees’ health and safety.

Our Strategy

Regardless of cultural, social or economic context, we conduct our activities in a way that respects the dignity of each person, using fair and humane practices. To maintain relevant policies and practices, we work to identify and understand the human rights issues most salient to our business.

 

Governing Human Rights Across Our Value Chain

Global People and Global Supply Chain are responsible for our day-to-day human rights performance. Human rights professionals on our Sustainability & ESG team within Global Impact play a key coordinating role and manage a cross-functional Human Rights Working Group which meets quarterly, as well as on an ad hoc basis as needed.

The executive sponsors of the Human Rights Working Group are our Chief Global Impact Officer, Chief People Officer, Chief Supply Chain Officer and Chief Legal Officer. These executive sponsors report to the CEO on human rights risks and share relevant updates to the Board Committees.

The CEO and Senior Leadership team have oversight of human rights policies, commitments and management, as well as of Enterprise Risk Management, which may include specific human rights issues. The Board Committees have oversight of human capital management generally, including human rights.

 

Policies and Standards

Our commitment to respect people throughout our value chain and their rights is defined in several documents. These standards, principles and policies work together to reinforce a culture of integrity and respect and are foundational to how we feed and foster communities around the globe.

 

Apply throughout McDonald’s Corporation and its majority-owned subsidiaries

 

 

Apply throughout McDonald’s-brand restaurants

 

 

Apply throughout supply chain

 

 

About Our Human Rights Policy

Our Human Rights Policy is informed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and guided by internationally recognized standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the International Bill of Human Rights and the principles set out in the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

It includes our steps for monitoring and reporting on human rights commitments and efforts, communicating our policy to stakeholders, using international standards to guide our approach, adopting grievance mechanisms, providing remedies to correct negative impacts and applying due diligence through risk assessments. All of these expectations are approved at the most senior level of the business.

To help Company employees understand human rights, training on our Human Rights Policy is available in 15 languages. In 2021, the training was made available to Company employees across all our owned markets. The training includes a section on forced labor that identifies particularly vulnerable groups.

 

About Our Standards of Business Conduct

Our commitment to respect human rights is set out in our Standards of Business Conduct, which applies to employees of McDonald’s Corporation and our majority-owned subsidiaries. Company employees are trained regularly on the Standards and required to annually certify their understanding of and commitment to upholding them.

 

About Our Global Statement of Principles Against Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation

Our Global Statement of Principles Against Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation sets forth policy criteria required of all Company-owned restaurants. It is also provided for optional use by Franchisees and Developmental Licensees (DLs) based on their respective locations and circumstances.

It sets out expectations on workplace conduct, manager responsibilities, employee resources and investigation processes, and applies to all Company-owned restaurant and Corporate employees. These principles protect Company employees against inappropriate actions that are unwanted, or which create an intimidating, offensive, unsafe or hostile work environment.

Each of McDonald’s majority-owned subsidiaries implements specific local policies addressing discrimination, harassment and retaliation in their market, making sure that they are consistent with our principles, while adhering to applicable local laws. This includes setting out how to address and prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation, while providing Company employees with clear and detailed information on how they can report concerns.

 

About Our Global Statement of Principles on Workplace Violence Prevention

Through our Global Statement of Principles on Workplace Violence Prevention, McDonald’s strives to create a work environment that is safe and free of physical threats and violence of any type. It applies to employees of all Company-owned restaurants and is provided for optional use by Franchisees and DLs based on their respective locations and circumstances.

It sets out expectations on workplace conduct, manager responsibilities, employee resources and investigation processes, and applies to all Company-owned restaurant and Corporate employees. We do not tolerate any abusive, threatening or violent behavior in our restaurants or offices. Recourse includes internal reporting, as well as communicating with the proper legal authorities.

As noted in the following description of our Global Brand Standards, all restaurants, in all markets, must have a workplace violence prevention policy. Majority-owned markets are additionally required to incorporate the principles found in the Global Statement of Principles on Workplace Violence Prevention into their workplace violence prevention policy.

 

About Our Global Brand Standards

Our Global Brand Standards help foster safe, respectful and inclusive workplaces that protect the physical and psychological safety of all 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. We will adapt our approach as relevant as we continue to gather feedback from franchisees and restaurant employees over time. For more information on how we and our Franchisees put our Global Brand Standards into practice, please see Safe & Respectful Workplaces.

 

About Our Supplier Code of Conduct

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 the Code. This includes holding their own supply chains to the same standards in these areas.

 

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. McDonald’s supports the goals of the U.K. and Australian Modern Slavery Acts. McDonald’s U.K. published its first U.K. Modern Slavery Act statement in 2017.

 

Partnering to Continuously Evolve Standards

McDonald’s is committed to engaging with relevant internal and external stakeholders to continue to advance our approach to human rights. To help drive progress we engage with the Business for Social Responsibility’s Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), which supports implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in a shared-learning forum of more than 40 companies. To ensure our supplier program addresses emerging human rights issues and risks, we also participate in initiatives such as AIM-PROGRESS, a business initiative focused on responsible sourcing.

Supporting Company Employees and Franchisees

Grievance Mechanisms

Ensuring people can report any alleged violations of their rights, in safety and without fear of retribution, is an integral part of supporting and championing human rights. 

This includes encouraging honest communication with managers and human resource representatives, as well as providing anonymous channels for Company employees to report concerns. Employees of McDonald’s Corporation and our majority-owned subsidiaries can raise concerns via an anonymous global channel, the Business Integrity Line – staffed by a live operator from an independent company – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This is complemented by additional grievance channels in all markets.

We take all concerns that are raised seriously. We will not impede state-based grievance processes via our employee system and we do not require Company employees to waive their right to use such external mechanisms to use our hotline. We do not tolerate retaliation of any kind against anyone who reports an issue and do not tolerate unlawful threats, intimidation, or physical or legal attacks against human rights defenders. We provide access to remediation and encourage our business partners to do the same, and recognize that this commitment should not obstruct access to other remedies.

Each of our International Operated Markets has human resources staff that are responsible for handling concerns in an appropriate and timely manner. This process may include investigating complaints, interviewing witnesses, reviewing documentation and determining next steps. 

For example, in the U.S. market, several grievance mechanisms are available. Company-owned restaurant employees can report concerns or complaints to their restaurant’s General Manager or Operations Consultant, HR Consultant or HR Manager, or the Business Integrity Line. We also provide Company-owned restaurant employees with third-party Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) such as the McResource Line and the Employee Resource Connection. These EAPs offer services such as counseling, referrals and other support, and are free and confidential.

Additionally, in the U.S. market, the Company offers Franchisees a third-party managed hotline. This hotline supplements what Franchisees already offer their employees and provides callers with another anonymous way to file a concern with their employer.

 

Maintaining Respectful and Inclusive Contractual Practices

We limit our use of arbitration, noncompetition and nondisclosure covenants as follows:

 

  • We do not and will not, as a condition of employment, require mandatory arbitration of harassment and discrimination claims.

  • While leadership within the officer level sign noncompetition covenants, we do not require, as a condition of employment, any employee below the officer level to sign post-termination, noncompetition covenants, except in very limited situations, as authorized by the Chief Legal Officer. These would include an employee who has unique skills, knowledge or access to intellectual property, trade secrets or highly confidential customer information that would provide a competitor with an advantage (e.g., complex knowledge regarding menu innovation or critical technology applications or systems).

  • In the event that McDonald’s seeks a nondisclosure covenant in connection with the settlement of a harassment or discrimination claim brought by an employee or former employee against an officer of McDonald’s Corporation, we will provide notice of such arrangement to the Board of Directors to ensure the Board has appropriate oversight.

Supporting Suppliers

McDonald’s has a complex global supply chain with thousands of direct suppliers employing thousands of people in over 100 countries. We believe a supply chain of this scale gives us an important responsibility to do business with suppliers that respect the fundamental rights of their employees and partners.

We have supply chain standards that address:

 

  • Nondiscrimination.

  • Maximum working hours.

  • Underage labor.

  • Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

  • Corporal punishment/disciplinary practices.

  • Safe working conditions.

  • Forced labor.

 

The success of the McDonald’s System lies in our trusted relationships with suppliers. All suppliers must, regardless of the cultural, social and economic context, commit to upholding the standards contained in our Supplier Code of Conduct. This includes meeting our human rights, workplace environment, business integrity and environmental management standards. We provide guidance to help them do so, but also expect suppliers to implement their own management systems in these areas.

To evolve our human rights policies and programs, we have developed a thorough strategy for identifying potential human rights issues in our supply chain, drawing on data from a wide range of sources. This includes a supply chain human rights assessment, third-party audits of suppliers, media monitoring and relevant stakeholder engagement.

We expect suppliers to treat their employees with fairness, respect and dignity, and follow practices that protect the health and safety of people working in their facilities, in compliance with national and local laws. We also require our suppliers to hold their own suppliers to the same standards as outlined in our Code, and to create internal mechanisms and programs for handling reports of workplace grievances, including anonymous reporting.

 

Human Rights Impact Assessment Along Our Supply Chain

To uphold our high standards for respecting human rights, we need to better understand the human rights risk associated with the various commodities we source. In 2018, we engaged an external provider to conduct a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) at the farm level. The assessment enabled us to identify that, of all the commodities we source, palm oil, tea, coffee and timber present the greatest risk of exposure to human rights concerns, with occupational health and safety, migrant workers and decent working time identified as the most salient risks.

In addition to the farm-level commodity assessment, the HRIA also included a stakeholder consultation with key nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to understand how industry experts view the human rights risks associated with the production of these commodities, as well as their observations on how the risks can best be mitigated.

The HRIA findings, and corresponding recommendations, helped us strengthen human rights management frameworks to better identify, assess, prevent, mitigate and remediate salient human rights issues. For example, as we update our sustainable sourcing strategies and policies for specific commodities, we use these recommendations to inform our human rights due diligence requirements for suppliers.

We also use the HRIA findings to raise awareness of human rights risks among supply chain staff who procure products for the McDonald’s System and have taken steps to strengthen risk management procedures and improvement plans. 

By identifying the most salient human rights issues within these supply chains, we aim to strengthen our risk management procedures, develop appropriate improvement plans and increase awareness of these issues within our business.

 

Ethical Employment and Recruitment Practices

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, and prohibits suppliers and third-party labor agencies from retaining employees’ government-issued identification, passports or work permits as a condition of employment. We also expect our suppliers to provide their own internal reporting mechanisms, to ensure their employees have a safe and timely way to report workplace concerns without fear of retaliation.

On-site audits include a review of ethical recruitment practices to verify that workers are employed under voluntary conditions and have freedom of movement. This includes verification that:

 

  • Workers are not charged illegal fees as a condition of employment.

  • Worker contracts are in the local language and signed by the worker.

  • Suppliers do not retain workers’ government-issued identification, passports or work permits.

 

Supplier Workplace Accountability Program

McDonald’s has a comprehensive Supplier Workplace Accountability (SWA) program, which supports compliance with the standards and expectations outlined in our Code. The SWA program aims to help suppliers understand our expectations and verify compliance. 

The SWA program provides suppliers and McDonald’s Global Supply Chain team with optional training to understand human rights issues and SWA program requirements. Built on a model of continuous improvement and education, it includes an online training platform where suppliers can access optional tools and resources that provide guidance on human rights issues.

Global training modules launched in 2021 focused on: Health and Safety, Involuntary Labor (including recruitment and fee reimbursement) and Underage Labor.

McDonald’s also offers optional suppliers live training sessions with external human rights and supply chain experts. The Company has partnered with other brands and external consultancies across the industry to develop and train suppliers.

Additionally, McDonald’s Supplier Workplace Standards and Guidance Document (SWSGD) is shared with all suppliers and provides detailed guidance on each aspect of the Code and how suppliers and their supply chains can meet our expectations.

In 2021, McDonald’s updated the SWSGD and hosted training sessions on the updated standards. These reached thousands of suppliers and McDonald’s staff and featured interviews with external experts.

Since launching the SWA program, McDonald’s has engaged with thousands of suppliers and facilities on respecting human rights and mitigating risk. We are proud that our suppliers take their commitments seriously and, in some cases, have their own equally robust compliance and reporting programs that have been evaluated and approved as equivalent to McDonald’s SWA program. We have seen an improvement in compliance overall since the SWA program began and, as of end of 2021, more than 4,600 facilities are actively participating in the program.

 

Compliance and Remediation With the Code

Human rights due diligence is incorporated into the SWA program. As part of the onboarding process, prospective suppliers must complete the required steps of the SWA program to verify that they can meet our expectations.

Initially, online training is offered to help suppliers understand what is expected of them. Suppliers also complete a rigorous annual self-assessment questionnaire to appraise their current systems and practices. This results in a report indicating areas for improvement.

The next step of the process involves independent third parties conducting announced and unannounced audits. We work with several social compliance auditing firms around the world that have expert knowledge and understanding of local languages and cultures. On-site audits include physical inspections of the facilities, worker housing and cafeterias. The auditing firms also interview workers and review facility records and business practices. In addition, they check the supplier’s compliance with each aspect of the Code, such as verifying that all workers are of legal age to work. In the event an underage person is hired, suppliers are expected to invest in remediation systems, such as assisting in their return to their school or supporting any other solution that serves the child’s best interest.

Instances of any noncompliance are shared with the supplier, which must then produce and complete a corrective and preventive action plan. This must outline specific time frames within which corrective action will be taken, root causes analyzed and policies and procedures updated. In instances of significant noncompliance, suppliers are subject to a follow-up audit.

McDonald’s SWA program is designed to support suppliers in meeting our standards. We prioritize continuous improvement, capacity building and corrective actions. However, in certain circumstances, such as instances of significant noncompliance with the Code, McDonald’s may remove a supplier from the supply chain.

 

Grievance Mechanisms

Guided by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, our SWSGD provides a step-by-step best practice process to help suppliers establish an effective grievance mechanism. We require suppliers to establish internal grievance mechanisms and provide their workers with their own robust internal procedures to raise issues. Our Business Integrity Line, and an email to reach the SWA Global Management team, are open to suppliers and their employees, if they suspect or become aware of any alleged breaches to our Code. Our Code explicitly states that the supplier’s reporting program must protect the worker’s confidentiality and must prohibit retaliation in response to reporting issues.

 

Leveraging Certifications

The SWA program is complemented by additional mechanisms to partner and collaborate on a risk-based approach toward high-risk sourcing regions or commodities. While we continue to work in partnership with suppliers, advisors and NGOs to continuously evolve and improve our approach to assessing and addressing human rights issues in high-risk commodities, we also ensure we are sourcing our largest food and packaging volumes through internationally recognized third-party certification schemes that respect human rights and communities alongside environmental standards in their certification process.

 

Beef

We are working with our supply chain to expand programs that align with the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) principles, which include ensuring respect for people and communities.

 

Soy (for Chicken Feed)

We leverage ProTerra or Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) certification standards, which have criteria regarding human and labor rights, abolition of any type of discrimination and forced labor, as well as establishing requirements for relations with neighboring communities and indigenous communities and their rights.

 

Palm Oil

We are committed to sourcing Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified palm oil, which aims to strengthen social development, environmental protection and economic prosperity across the sustainable palm oil value chain. We also have expectations of our centrally managed suppliers of restaurant and par-fry oil to address human rights concerns.

 

Coffee

Sourcing coffee certified to international sustainability standards such as Rainforest Alliance, UTZ and Fairtrade International, and Fair Trade USA is key to our supply chain strategy. In parallel with our certification work, we have also launched the McCafé® Sustainability Improvement Platform (SIP) in partnership with Conservation International. These two approaches are complementary, and we will continue to support both certification and direct collaboration with farmers as methods to achieve positive impacts.

 

Fiber

McDonald’s leverages existing certification schemes, including Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®)Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and PEFC-endorsed national systems, which ensure the rights of forest-dependent communities are respected.