How McDonald’s is Taking Action on Climate Change

June 16, 2020

It’s unmistakable. Climate change is the greatest environmental issue of our time, but what can a burger company do about it? The answer may surprise you.

McDonald’s feeds millions of people around the world every day and with that comes a responsibility – and opportunity – to use our size and scale to help transform the global food system for the better.

That includes taking urgent action on climate change, one of the biggest issues facing the food system. Here are just a few ways we’re working to reduce emissions, regenerate nature and prepare to adapt to climate change as we strive to feed people more sustainably.

Setting a science-based target

In 2018, McDonald’s became the first restaurant company in the world to commit to a science based target to reduce emissions in our restaurants, offices and supply chain by 2030 from a 2015 base year, in a new strategy to address global climate change. This combined target has been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), and builds on over 30 years of work across our system to be more innovative and efficient.  We’re prioritizing action on the largest segments of our carbon footprint, including energy usage in our restaurants, packaging and waste, and beef production in our supply chain. By measuring the data and partnering with suppliers, franchisees and experts we can identify solutions and hold ourselves accountable.

Learn how we’re meeting our targets.

Reducing emissions on beef

When it comes to beef, we’re in a unique position to use our scale to accelerate the pace and widespread adoption of best practices that reduce emissions and support farmer livelihoods. Since 2011, we have partnered with beef farmers, ranchers, and civil society groups across each of our major sourcing regions to help identify and scale the most sustainable farming practices across the industry. These efforts include co-founding the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, to accelerate the uptake of sustainable farming practices across the industry. We’re also working with partners to advance the science around sustainable beef farming practices. One example is the work we’re doing with the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research and universities in the U.S. to look at how regenerative grazing practices can capture more carbon in the soil and increase biodiversity.

Here’s more on our approach to beef sustainability.

beef sustainability

Investing in renewable energy and sustainable restaurant design

Renewable energy is a significant part of our strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across McDonald’s restaurants and offices. In July 2020, for example, McDonald’s unveiled a first-of-its-kind restaurant designed to create enough renewable energy on-site to cover 100% of its own energy needs on a net annual basis. In 2019, we invested in two renewable energy projects in the U.S. that once online are expected to add more renewable energy to the nation’s power supply than any other U.S. restaurant company to date, preventing over 700,000 metric tons of carbon emissions each year – that’s the equivalent of planting more than 11 million trees. Additionally, European renewable energy purchases in 2018 covered over 6,000 McDonald’s restaurants–worth of electricity across twelve markets. McDonald’s restaurants in Austria, France, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and UK & Ireland are already at or close to sourcing 100% of the energy needed to power their restaurants from renewable sources as of 2018. 

How we’re collaborating with Franchisees to make restaurants more resource-efficient.

McDonald's sustainable design

Transforming our packaging

McDonald’s packaging and recycling strategy encompasses a wide range of initiatives to reduce our use of packaging, switch to more sustainable materials and help our customers to recycle.  Today most of our global packaging weight comes from fiber materials (78%), with the remaining 22% comprised of plastics. And while some plastic packaging is necessary to keep food fresh and safe, McDonald’s wants to be part of the solution and we’re using our scale to accelerate a circular economy in exciting ways. By using our restaurants as mini innovation hubs, we can get immediate customer feedback and identify the best solutions to accelerate and scale across multiple markets. These innovative trials demonstrate action towards McDonald’s ambition to source all guest packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025. Today, we are approximately 60% of the way towards achieving this goal globally. 

Read on about our approach to packaging and recycling.

McDonald's Packaging and recycling

Protecting forests 

Forests help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide vital homes for many animals around the world. That’s why we are committed to eliminating deforestation from our global supply chain by 2030 and prioritizing the raw materials our suppliers buy in greatest volume and where we can have the biggest impact: beef, chicken (including soy in feed), palm oil, coffee and the fiber used in packaging by the end of 2020.  On beef, for example, no credible certification or process previously existed for confronting deforestation in beef supply chains. We started working with AgroTools, a Brazilian ag-tech company and certified B-Corp, and Proforest, a not-for-profit organization, to track the origin of all Brazilian beef used by McDonald’s restaurants. After determining risk level based on sourcing location, we use a combination of satellite imagery of the farm area and data analysis to assess whether deforestation has happened at the farm level. This enables our suppliers to implement continuous improvement plans with farms that don’t comply with our policy. We’ve since expanded this project to include beef supplied from other high-priority regions.

Dig into our data on conserving forests.

Preserving Forests

Next Read
Francesca DeBiase, EVP, Chief Supply Chain and Sustainability Officer, discusses how McDonald’s is driving food system transformation within our network and beyond.

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