We believe climate change is the biggest environmental issue of our time, with impacts that affect communities around the world: from melting ice caps and devastating forest fires, to shifting weather patterns that disrupt agricultural supply chains and threaten food security.
As one of the world’s largest restaurant companies, we have a unique opportunity to mobilize our entire value chain to act now. In collaboration with our Franchisees, and through our relationships with suppliers, farmers and ranchers around the world, we can help to catalyze action around emissions reductions and strengthen climate resiliency.
Reducing emissions and adapting to climate change is critical to the collective success and resilience of the McDonald’s System, and our ability to feed communities today and in the future. While taking action on climate change is challenging and requires significant investment, we believe it will drive business value in the long term by ensuring we are managing operational costs in our energy supply, improving the security of supply of our raw materials and reducing our exposure to increasing environmental risks, regulation and taxes.
We are working in partnership with our Franchisees and suppliers to take on climate change and transform the food system for the better. We have been on this journey for a number of years and we are proud that, in 2018, McDonald’s became the first global restaurant company to set a science-based target approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Through partnership and collaboration with our Franchisees, suppliers and producers, we committed to reduce GHG emissions related to our restaurants and offices by 36% by 2030 from a 2015 base year, as well as a 31% reduction in emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) across our supply chain.
Pledge to Achieve Net Zero Emissions by 2050
Climate science has progressed since we first set our targets in 2018, and we are raising our ambition to meet current recommendations and guidance from the SBTi. In 2021, we joined the United Nations Race to Zero campaign, pledging to put McDonald’s on the path to net zero emissions by 2050.
In pursuit of this ambition, we have committed to evolve our current 2030 targets to align with the SBTi Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign, which focuses on reducing emissions by 2030 to keep global temperature rises under 1.5°C. We will also develop a longer-term emissions reduction and neutralization strategy to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Taking Action to Cut Our Carbon Footprint
In collaboration with thousands of Franchisees, suppliers and producers, we are prioritizing action on the largest elements of our carbon footprint. These include restaurant energy use and sourcing, packaging and waste, and the sourcing of key ingredients for our menu, such as beef. We are also contributing to the development of GHG accounting methods to demonstrate the impact of factors such as land use change and carbon sequestration to our footprint, to keep our strategy robust and resilient.
Restaurant Energy Usage and Sourcing
Together with our Franchisees, we are working across our restaurants to be more innovative and efficient, with investments in areas such as renewable energy, LED lighting and energy-efficient kitchen equipment. Across the globe, our markets are in various phases of strategy development, and in 2020 we launched a new internal climate data and insights platform to support market-level local climate strategies and track progress.
Packaging & Waste
Packaging helps us serve food quickly and safely to our customers, but we also know that how it is designed, produced, transported and disposed of can have an impact on the planet. Our packaging and waste strategy aims to accelerate a circular economy and design out waste to further help reduce emissions across our operations and supply chain. Read more on our Packaging & Waste page.
We are one of the biggest buyers of beef in the world, and beef is one of the top three contributors to the overall carbon footprint of our supply chain. This is why we are prioritizing action in this area in partnership with our suppliers, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and climate experts. Since 2011, we have supported and participated in global, regional and national roundtables, bringing together partners to identify, develop and scale the most sustainable agricultural practices. We request all of our globally managed beef suppliers report their actions on climate through CDP Supply Chain. The majority have their own climate targets, and we are working with suppliers to develop tailored roadmaps for key ingredients (including beef) to meet our global GHG emissions target.
We are also working with partners to advance the science around sustainable beef farming practices. Our work with the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research and universities in the U.S., for example, is looking at how regenerative grazing practices can capture more carbon in the soil and increase biodiversity. Read more on our Sustainable Agriculture & Beef page.
Engaging Our Supply Chain
To achieve our supply chain goals, we work closely with suppliers and producers, particularly our biggest suppliers in the product categories in which we can have the greatest impact. We all share a common commitment to delivering action on climate and driving continuous improvement. We have set an expectation for all McDonald’s globally managed suppliers to set climate targets, measure emissions and make reductions – particularly in Scope 3 emissions – in line with their broader sustainability strategies.
We work with expert partners such as CDP, an organization that helps companies manage their environmental impacts, to support our suppliers in developing their own approach to climate action. Through the CDP Supply Chain program, we engage with our suppliers to better understand the level of action they are undertaking across their own businesses.
In 2021, we asked 131 suppliers to report to CDP Climate and Forests. This was up from 2020 when we asked 107 suppliers – representing 79% of our global spend across food, packaging, logistics and equipment – to report to CDP.
Our supply chain focus will be on areas including:
- Farm management – On farms, sustainability and efficiency are interconnected; a carbon footprint is an indicator of a farm’s overall proficiency and therefore its profitability. When farmers are able to optimize their resources, they also improve their economic viability and minimize their carbon footprint. We are improving our insight into the farming systems that supply the food for our menu, and our suppliers work with farmers to help them improve their efficiency and reduce emissions by adopting more sustainable practices.
- Rebuilding soils – Progressive grazing techniques and other agricultural practices can bolster soil’s ability to store carbon and improve climate resiliency while optimizing the nutrition it can provide animals. We support initiatives to help farmers adopt management practices that improve soil health, and at the same time ensure that farming systems that actively sequester carbon are recognized in GHG measurements.
- Conserving forests – Forests play a pivotal role in absorbing GHG emissions, creating oxygen and supporting ecosystems – and yet around the world they are under threat from deforestation and degradation. Deforestation is estimated to account for 15% of the planet’s global GHG emissions, and presents a real risk to our shared environment, as well as our business, supply chain and customers. We are working with partners across our global supply chains to verify that the products sourced for our menu are not putting forests at risk, and we are committed to eliminating deforestation from our global supply chains by 2030. Read more about our work on our Conserving Forests page.
- Post-farm efficiency – We are constantly looking for new opportunities to cut emissions throughout the rest of our supply chain, and are working on initiatives that include improving energy usage at supplier facilities, transportation efficiency and reducing food waste.
Keeping Our Transport and Logistics Impact Low
McDonald’s logistics network transports our food products more than 250 million miles every year. Our logistics providers are working to minimize the environmental footprint of our distribution activities by reducing the distances our products travel, moving toward alternative fuels and making product journeys as efficient as possible.
We have a twofold approach to working with our suppliers to achieve world-class logistics operations with the lowest possible environmental footprint:
- Using fewer miles and less fuel through continuous routing improvements, innovations like engineless cooling and air deflectors, and ongoing driver training.
- Increasing the use of alternative fuels with lower emissions.
In 2019, our two largest logistics providers, HAVI and Martin Brower (MB), also signed up to the SBTi, and committed to cutting carbon emissions from their operations by 40% per metric ton of goods delivered by 2030, respectively, from a 2015 base year. Since then, all of McDonald’s Global and North American independent logistics suppliers have set science-based targets, approved by the SBTi.
We also pair innovation in transportation with our efforts to eliminate waste from our kitchens and supply chains. For instance, rather than relying on a separate collection service, trucks in some countries “back-haul” waste from McDonald’s restaurants when returning to the distribution centers. This helps to recycle waste streams, like cardboard, used cooking oil, some plastics and cups, while reducing mileage and emissions in the process.
We encourage all our logistics providers to use carbon-efficient fuels. This includes alternative fuels such as renewable natural gas created from biowaste, biofuels, hydrogen, natural gas, propane and electricity. Where possible, these biofuels are generated from by-products rather than crops grown for food. In 2017, McDonald’s and our logistics providers became signatories to sustainability specialist BSR’s Sustainable Fuel Buyers’ Principles, supporting growth in the market for low-carbon vehicles.
Managing Climate-Related Risks and Opportunities
We are assessing climate risk and strengthening our collective resiliency because it’s the right thing to do for our planet, our communities and our business. We look to the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) to guide our approach. In 2021, we released our Climate Risk & Resiliency Summary, demonstrating our continued commitment to disclose climate-related risks and opportunities for our business. Key takeaways from the summary include:
- McDonald’s has taken action on climate for years, and we are actively working toward our science-based targets that cover Scopes 1, 2 and 3, as well as sustainable sourcing goals, deforestation commitments and more.
- We are leveraging scenario modeling to understand the transition and physical risks and opportunities for the McDonald’s System, including our supply chain, Company offices and Company-owned and franchised restaurants.
- We pledged to put McDonald’s on the path to net zero emissions by 2050, and are working with partners to define a science-based framework that will guide the future evolution of our existing targets.
- Our climate change strategy is guided and governed by a cross-functional leadership team that engages all levels of the Company, from the Board of Directors to country-level sustainability staff.
Collaborating to Drive and Advocate for Transformative Change
We know that addressing climate change requires a collective effort across our global community. That is why we’re partnering with our suppliers, Franchisees, industry, governments, NGOs and others to take action. Knowing we are stronger working in partnership with others, McDonald’s works with other organizations and coalitions to advocate for further progress on climate action.
- McDonald’s pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 through the United Nations Race to Zero Campaign.
- Through the SBTi Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign, we committed to evolve our current targets with a focus on reducing emissions by 2030 to keep global temperature rises under 1.5°C.
- We continue to advocate for climate policy, including serving as a Leader’s Circle of America Is All In (formerly We Are Still In) and recently building on our existing engagement with Ceres (see below). With these networks and a coalition of businesses, cities, states, faith groups, cultural institutions, healthcare organizations and universities, in 2021 we called on the United States to raise its ambition on climate action and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
- McDonald’s participates on the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) Board of Directors, collaborating with other energy buyers, energy providers, and service providers to navigate the complexities of the energy market.
- In 2020, we became members of the Ceres Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) network where, alongside nearly 70 other organizations, we are supporting the development of strong climate and energy-efficiency policies in the U.S.
- Since announcing our climate commitment in 2018, McDonald’s has been meeting with members of U.S. Congress and their staff to share our commitment to climate action and also to discuss important topics such as recycling, soil health and renewable energy. We believe public policy is a critical part of the solution and our advocacy work in Washington, D.C. is driven by our U.S. Environmental Sustainability Policy Principles.
Across the world, we collaborate with supplier partners and industry peers on a range of projects and to help develop tools and best practices:
- We are working with other organizations as part of the C-Sequ working group to help develop a clear methodology to account for carbon sequestration in lifecycle analysis (LCA) calculations. The group aims to improve accounting techniques to provide more certainty when organizations are investing in projects to sequester and store carbon through agricultural activity. We also support the work to define the action of methane more accurately as a greenhouse gas.
- We are members of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Land Based Technical Working Group, which is developing new technical guidance and standards on how companies account for and report emissions, reductions and removals from land use activities in their GHG inventories.
- We are involved with the SBTi Forest, Land and Agriculture (FLAG) Working Group, led by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), to define a pathway for 1.5°C for agricultural, forestry and land-based businesses and supply chains. We are testing and providing feedback on the approach companies worldwide can use to set and achieve credible science based targets.
- As part of the Cool Farm Alliance, we have supported the development of the Cool Farm Tool that provides farmers in multiple countries and farming sectors with free access to a GHG measurement system, which they can use to assess their carbon footprint.
- As members of the Gold Standard Value Chain Initiative – a not-for-profit established to ensure projects that reduced carbon emissions featured the highest levels of environmental integrity – we work with others to test new techniques of carbon accounting in the supply chain and deal with challenges around traceability.
- We support the work of the GWP* Group to examine and model the impact and application of the GWP* methodology to reflect the warming impact of methane as a greenhouse gas.
Helping Support the Sustainable Development Goals
Our climate change work helps support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, in particular:
The figures below reflect our 2020 progress and the latest enhancements to our 2015 base year emissions, which have been updated based on best practice guidance on leveraging the latest methodology and data available. As we continue to enhance our methodology and data quality over future reporting cycles, we expect the baseline and annual progress figures to further adjust.
For our comprehensive disclosure on climate action in 2019, see McDonald’s CDP Climate Change (2020) Report (PDF – 557 KB).
By 2030, partner with Franchisees to reduce GHG emissions related to McDonald’s restaurants and offices by 36% from a 2015 base year.
As of the end of 2020, we have made an 8.5% reduction in our restaurants’ and offices’ absolute emissions from the 2015 baseline.
This means approximately 23.6% of our target has been achieved.
Once all 2019-2021 transacted U.S. renewable energy projects are online, the energy generated will be equivalent to over 8,000 U.S. restaurants' worth of electricity and is expected to contribute to a 22% reduction from our 2015 baseline.
By 2030, reduce emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) by 31% across our supply chain from 2015 levels.
As of the end of 2020, the emissions intensity of our supply chain has decreased by 5.9% from the 2015 baseline.
This means we are 19.3% of the way toward our target. We continue to partner with our suppliers to make progress, and we are seeing an increase in the number of our suppliers setting climate targets and implementing strategies to reduce emissions intensity that are tailored to their own supply chains.
GHG Emissions (In Metric Tons)
|Gross Scope 1: Emissions||162,958||97,398|
|Gross Scope 2: Emissions (market-based)||1,295,123||431,395|
|Gross Scope 3: Emissions||49,344,096||53,704,901|
Total Energy Consumed
|Total Direct Energy (MWh)||1,887,246|
Improving our Climate Impact Measurement
We hold ourselves accountable by measuring emissions data annually and partnering with experts to leverage leading methodologies for data collection and measurement. In 2020, we launched a new, internal, enterprise-level climate tracking system that pulls together restaurant, office and supply chain climate data. It runs parallel with our supply chain sustainability reporting system and uses common sources of information. We also work with the CDP Supply Chain program to integrate the actions of key suppliers on climate and forests.
The climate tracking system is also a way to share actionable data and benchmarking insights with key internal audiences in order to inform strategy development. We will continue to evolve the system via annual improvements on both the data quality and climate accounting methodology, as well as insights and benchmarking capabilities.
Adding Renewable Energy to the Grid
In 2019, McDonald’s committed to two renewable energy projects in Texas through virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs). These were a first for the company and helped us join other leading corporate renewable energy buyers in adding new, large-scale, renewable energy to the U.S. grid. Then in 2020, McDonald’s completed three new VPPA transactions, with two wind farms and one portfolio of solar projects slated to be built in Illinois, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Ohio.
Once all the projects initiated in 2019-2021 are online, the energy generated by renewable energy projects will be equivalent to over 8,000 restaurants-worth of electricity and is expected to contribute to a 22% GHG reduction from our 2015 baseline. McDonald’s portion of these renewable energy projects will help to prevent approximately 2,300,000 metric tons of CO2e emissions each year.
In Europe, renewable energy purchases in 2020 covered over 6,000 restaurants’ worth of electricity across 11 markets (Austria, France, U.K. and Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). These markets have achieved purchasing over 75% renewable electricity for their restaurants, and in many cases are at or close to 100% renewable electricity.
Creating McDonald’s First Net Zero Energy-Designed Restaurant
In 2020, McDonald’s unveiled a first-of-its-kind net zero energy-designed restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The global flagship restaurant is designed to create enough renewable energy on-site to cover 100% of its annual energy needs, and will serve as a learning hub to test solutions for reducing energy and water use.
The restaurant includes:
- A solar-paneled roof, photovoltaic glass panels integrated throughout the building, and solar-powered parking lot lights.
- An automated energy system and passive ventilation dining-room that circulates air and regulates temperature, allowing the building to “breathe.”
- Family-friendly educational elements, such as static bikes that generate electricity and illuminate McDonald’s Golden Arches and tablet games that teach children and adults about renewable energy.
To reinforce the restaurant’s net zero energy status, we are working towards the International Living Futures Institute’s Zero Energy Certification. Data and learnings from the restaurant will also inform McDonald’s global sustainability efforts, including progressing towards our science-based target.
Read more about our net zero energy-designed restaurant.
The design of their global flagship restaurant is another positive step in how McDonald’s is tackling the climate challenge by bringing proven renewable energy solutions under one roof and educating their customers about the importance of sustainable practices and renewable energy sources.
Marty Spitzer, Senior Director, Climate and Renewable Energy, WWF
Operating Sustainable Restaurants Around the World
We are focused on designing and delivering the most resource-efficient restaurants possible. This means minimizing our use of energy and water, and maximizing the use of renewable energy, wherever possible. Our Global Restaurant Building & Equipment Standards include minimum requirements and recommendations on issues such as lighting, refrigeration and the energy efficiency of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, as well as energy management and even the way in which buildings are constructed to optimize solar gain.
To advance the overall sustainability of McDonald’s restaurants in Europe, we also operate to Green Building Guidelines, which are part of our continuous efforts to reduce energy consumption by sharing best practice and using the latest technologies.
Progress we are making around the world:
- Australia – In 2020, McDonald’s Australia launched its 1000th restaurant as the market’s first sustainability flagship and hub for testing industry-leading sustainability innovations. It features 25 core initiatives to reduce its environmental impact, from energy-efficiency to water conservation to recycling, and is designed to operate with 100% renewable energy and elements like carbon-neutral McDelivery.
- U.K. – New McDonald’s restaurants have 100% LED lighting, which uses 50% less energy than fluorescent lighting. Close to 240,000 LED lights have been installed across McDonald’s restaurants, right down to the bulbs in our emergency lighting.
- France – With a focus on energy efficiency and water reduction, a typical McDonald's restaurant in France uses LED lighting and consumes, on average, just 7 liters of water per meal, compared to 10 to 20 liters in traditional restaurant kitchens.
- Germany – We have consistently reduced energy consumption through modernization, employee training, energy monitoring and alarms in recent years. We achieved an overall reduction in energy consumption of 15%, as measured in 2019 compared to 2011. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., partly closed restaurants, fewer guest visits) in 2020, we achieved an overall reduction in energy consumption of 23%.
- U.S. – McDonald’s U.S. operated an environmental sustainability program, US 20x2020 By Design. The program aimed to reduce energy and water by 20% by 2020 from a 2005 base year, using innovative strategies in the design of new restaurants. These include LED lighting, low oil-volume fryers, high-efficiency hand dryers, toilets and faucets, and low-spray valves. In a concluding study, McDonald’s U.S. 2020 prototype buildings have achieved a 26.4% reduction in electric use, and a 3.7% reduction in natural gas use from 2005. For water, they achieved a total water use reduction of 19% (including a reduction of approximately 27% for hot water and water to sewer).
- U.S. – After two years in operation, McDonald’s Chicago Flagship restaurant – a sleek, glass -clad landmark in the city’s architecture – rich downtown – received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum® certification. It is the first McDonald’s location in the U.S. to receive LEED Platinum® certification, and the second worldwide. The restaurant serves as a learning hub to test sustainable solutions for future locations to meet sustainability targets through thoughtful design, construction and operation.
- China – McDonald’s China put in place an action plan to focus on green restaurants and green packaging. It expects to open more than 1,800 restaurants by 2022 and that these restaurants target LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards in the “Interior Design & Construction” category, issued by the United States Green Building Council. For the existing restaurants, McDonald’s China has been continuously updating and optimizing the energy management systems, including the use of LED energy-saving lamps, as well as more efficient air conditioning and kitchen equipment.
Installing Electric Vehicle Charging Points
We take a holistic approach to sustainability and that means exploring ways to help our customers reduce their own environmental impact. To help our customers embrace more sustainable technologies, we are in the process of rolling out electric vehicle (EV) charging points at numerous restaurants around the world.
- Through a collaboration with electricity producer Vattenfall, every Drive-Thru in the Netherlands will have two fast-charging points installed. This will enable EV drivers to charge their car within half an hour, using green electricity fully generated by Dutch wind turbines.
- McDonald’s Sweden has worked with Recharge (formerly Fortum) since 2012 and with EON since 2018 to establish fast chargers for electric cars in Sweden. Customers can charge their electric or hybrid car at 64 restaurants in Sweden and an additional 10 - 15 restaurants will be added to the network by the end of 2021.
- McDonald’s U.K. has entered a partnership with InstaVolt to introduce EV rapid-charging points as standard across new Drive-Thru restaurants.
Creating Supply Chain Climate Action Strategies
Through our climate data and insights platform, we know which suppliers and food-sourcing categories contribute the most to our emissions. This allows us to work with these suppliers to create strategies that support our science-based target and reduce our impact on the climate.
The first stage of this process is to share a commitment through target-setting. In 2019, we clearly communicated our expectations to all suppliers of the importance of setting science-based climate targets for their own businesses. We now regularly reinforce the importance of taking action during supplier webinars and reviews, while also supporting our suppliers with a Climate Action Toolkit.
As well as target-setting, we have an expectation that suppliers will instigate emissions monitoring and reduction programs, and report progress through the CDP Supply Chain program. We now request annual CDP reports from 131 key suppliers, up from 107 last year, which accounted for 79% of our annual global spend across food, packaging, logistics and equipment. This encompasses all globally managed suppliers of beef, chicken, dairy, cheese, bakery and baked goods, logistics, produce, liquid products and potato. It also includes the top 80% of our fiber-based packaging and key equipment suppliers and additional selected U.S. suppliers.
This partnership approach will help us to tailor supplier-led reduction initiatives that are specific to our supply chain, as well as foster new supplier collaborations to achieve an even greater impact.
Converting From Diesel to Alternative Fuels
HAVI, one of McDonald’s logistics suppliers, announced a five-year joint plan with vehicle maker Scania in 2017 to improve its carbon footprint. The plan aims to significantly reduce the number of diesel-powered vehicles it uses and convert around 70% of its fleet to alternative fuels in several European countries by 2021. By the end of 2019, HAVI had already achieved 37% of the target.
In 2021, McDonald’s Switzerland, in partnership with HAVI Switzerland, began operating its first hydrogen truck. This brings McDonald’s Switzerland closer to its goal of transporting 70% of McDonald's Switzerland's goods to the restaurants in a carbon-neutral manner by 2025.
Martin Brower is also continuously expanding its capabilities and use of alternative fuels. Over 90% of its global fleet is currently capable of operating with some level of biodiesel mixes – which is a big step toward carbon reduction while other alternative fuels such as natural gas and electricity become more commercially viable.
We are also finding ways to recycle our used cooking oil into biodiesel for delivery trucks. Learn more on our Packaging & Waste page.
Achieving SmartWay Excellence
In 2017, 2019 and 2020, McDonald’s U.S. received a SmartWay Excellence Award for outstanding environmental performance and leadership, having been a semifinalist in 2018. The SmartWay Excellence Award is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) highest recognition for demonstrating leadership in freight supply chain energy and environmental performance.
In addition, based on the performance of McDonald’s freight transportation operations in 2019, EPA has named us a 2020 SmartWay High Performer. Our freight partners were recognized for achieving 98% of miles, or ton-miles, as SmartWay shipped, with strong performance in areas such as data reporting and validation, educational and collaborative work, and community links.
Engaging Crew to Take Action
Several markets have found ways to tap into the enthusiasm of restaurant staff and engage them in initiatives to lower the environmental impact of restaurants. McDonald’s France has developed a digital environmental management system called EcoProgress, which helps restaurant teams manage their environmental impact and includes a platform that provides training, tools and examples of best practice. It also involves a countrywide annual challenge that rewards the McDonald’s restaurants with the highest performance.
Other markets, including the U.S., Russia, Portugal and Sweden, run internal sustainability campaigns to engage crew around the importance of taking action on climate. So far, the campaigns have included activities such as competitions and quizzes, with ongoing encouragement for crew members to share best practice examples from their restaurants.
More in Our Purpose & Impact
Sustainable Agriculture & Beef
We’re promoting sustainable practices that reduce emissions and support farmers.Read More
Packaging & Waste
We aim to source all packaging from renewable, recycled and certified sources.Read More
Our ambition is to eliminate deforestation from our supply chain by 2030.Read More