Water Stewardship

Why It Matters


We believe our size and scale can enable us to have a positive water impact. Our approach takes into consideration water conservation, stewardship, pollution, quality and use.

Water is one of the world’s most precious resources, with supplies under increasing pressure from climate change, extreme weather, floods, growing populations and swelling demand. Heavy storms and harsh temperatures – made more frequent by climate change – can destroy crops and contaminate freshwater supplies, impacting our restaurants and supply chain.

We rely on agriculture – which accounts for 70% of the planet’s freshwater use – and local watersheds to make our food and drinks and run our restaurants. Simply put, water is vital to our business.

Existing public infrastructure will need significant investment over the next 25 years if it is to keep serving all of the needs of our communities. Although we expect costs to rise, we recognize our role in responsibly managing a vital resource, and playing our part in protecting the availability and quality of our water.

Our Strategy


Shaping Our Strategy


In the communities where we operate, we’re working to conserve water and use it responsibly and efficiently.


We recognize water as an important sustainability issue area within our supply chain and restaurants. Water stewardship practices are embedded in our sourcing requirements and we expect suppliers to use water responsibly. We also include it in our Global Sustainable Sourcing Guide, which we regularly update as we establish targets, assess emerging risks and develop best practice.

We have partnered with experts like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and World Resources Institute to identify risks and create a stewardship approach that drives actions and improvements across our value chain, including sourcing, processing, transport and our restaurants. Franchisees and suppliers are also helping us develop this strategy, and we conducted a water risk analysis of our restaurants and suppliers in 2016 to inform our approach.

Through the actions we are taking across our supply chain and in Company-owned and franchised restaurants, we are seeking to reduce our overall water footprint, especially related to agriculture and row crops.


Putting Our Strategy Into Practice

To gather data around four key areas of water management – irrigation, public and staff amenities, cleaning, and beverage services – we conducted water surveys in McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. in 2018.

The findings have helped us and our Franchisees identify and prioritize water savings and improvement opportunities.

Our U.S. restaurant construction and remodel standards now include low-flow urinals and high-efficiency faucets that use less water. We also encourage the use of native and/or drought-tolerant landscaping, along with storm water management using rain gardens, permeable pavements, and rainwater collection and reuse. Water use is also a tenet of our Green Building Guidelines, which help us make our restaurants more resource efficient.

In 2020, we advanced our water engagement strategy with U.S. Franchisees that includes proactively upgrading to high-efficiency water equipment in the restaurants. It also involves establishing water engagement projects in our local communities in areas of high water stress.

We worked closely with suppliers to manage key resources throughout the supply chain. Water has been identified as one of our Priority Impact Areas in our supply chain. We encourage and support our suppliers to assess their own management of water in their operations and supply chains. The U.S. 2020 Supplier Facility Goals included that each facility should have an Environmental Management System in place that meets expectations of an internationally recognized standard. Facilities were able to choose between one of three aspirational goals to achieve, one of which was to reduce their water intensity by 20%.


Helping Support the Sustainable Development Goals

Our work on water helps support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, in particular:

Our Actions


Reducing Water Use in the U.S. 

In the U.S., we’re keeping our hot water hot while reducing the energy we need to heat it. Our environmental sustainability program, US 20x2020 By Design, aimed to reduce energy and water use by 20% by 2020 (measured against our 2005 building design) using innovative strategies in the design of new restaurants. In a concluding study, McDonald’s U.S. 2020 prototype buildings have achieved a total water use reduction of 19% (including a reduction of approximately 27% for hot water and water to sewer). 


Efficiency by Default in French McDonald’s Restaurants

McDonald’s France is focused on energy efficiency and water reduction: a typical McDonald's restaurant in France consumes only 7 liters of water on average per meal, compared to 10 to 20 liters in traditional restaurant kitchens.


Saving 45 Million Liters of Water Annually in Switzerland

In Switzerland, we save millions of liters each year through our urinals. The Urimat dry urinals, with a special siphon and large-scale float, neutralize odors and save around 45 million liters of water.