Why climate action matters
If society and industry continue business as usual, climate change will have serious consequences for our planet, its people today, and for generations to come – from melting ice caps and forest fires to shifting weather patterns that impact the way food is produced.
McDonald’s is taking action. When you operate 37,000 restaurants in over 100 countries around the world, serving 69 million people each day, every change makes a big difference.
On this page:
We’re committed to building a better McDonald’s and that includes using our scale to help address this defining issue for current and future generations. In March 2018, we became the first restaurant company in the world to address global climate change by setting a science based target to significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
The Company will partner with Franchisees to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to McDonald’s restaurants and offices by 36% by 2030 from a 2015 base year. Through collaboration and partnership with our suppliers and producers, the Company also commits to a 31% reduction in emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) across our supply chain by 2030 from 2015 levels. This combined target has been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).
Through actions we take to meet our targets across our supply chain and in company and franchised restaurants, we expect to prevent 150 million metric tons of C02 equivalents (CO2e) from being released into the atmosphere by 2030. This is the equivalent of taking 32 million passenger cars off the road for an entire year or planting 3.8 billion trees and growing them for 10 years. The target will enable McDonald’s to grow as a business without growing its emissions.
To reach its target, McDonald’s will work across its supply chain, offices and restaurants to be more innovative and efficient through improvements such as investing in renewable energy, LED lighting, energy efficient kitchen equipment, sustainable packaging, restaurant recycling, and by elevating and supporting sustainable agriculture practices. In collaboration with thousands of franchisees, suppliers and producers, McDonald’s will prioritize action on the largest segments of its carbon footprint: beef production, restaurant energy usage and sourcing, packaging and waste.
The whole McDonald’s supply chain is a critical part of our climate work. All supplier contributions are meaningful and will help to drive significant reductions for our 2030 target. To read more about our approach to driving innovation and improvements in responsible sourcing, click here.
While we have made progress in restaurants and in our supply chain, with our science-based target we are taking bigger and bolder actions to lessen our impact moving forward. We know that we can’t fight climate change alone, so we’re partnering with our suppliers, Franchisees, industry, governments, non-governmental organizations and others to take action. Knowing we are stronger working in partnership with others, McDonald’s is part of the We Are Still In (WASI) Leader’s Circle and works with the coalition of businesses, cities, states, faith groups and health care organizations to continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.
Additionally, since announcing McDonald’s 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 because we believe public policy is an important part of the conversation.
Our climate change work supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, specifically:
- Goal 7 – Affordable and clean energy (specifically targets 7.2 and 7.3).
- Goal 13 – Climate action (specifically target 13.2).
- Goal 17 – Partnerships for the goals (specifically targets 17.16 and 17.17).
Read more about our work to support the goals.
Restaurants and Offices
As we are making progress towards our restaurants and offices goal, two key areas of focus are around renewable energy and energy efficiency within our restaurants.
- In 2019, McDonald’s committed to two renewable energy projects that will expand the amount of renewable energy available in the U.S. These projects will be in the form of virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs) located in Texas - firsts for McDonald’s in the U.S. - and help us join other leading corporate renewable energy buyers in adding large-scale new renewable energy to the grid. The energy generated by these U.S. projects will be equivalent to over 2,500 restaurants-worth of electricity. Once online, McDonald’s portion of these two renewable energy projects will help to prevent approximately 700,000 metric tons of CO2e emissions each year2, which is equivalent to planting 11 million trees or taking over 140,000 cars off the road3.
- Energy efficiency measures and renewable energy are already being utilized in a big way in McDonald's restaurants in other markets. 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.
- Energy efficiency improvements have been a part of McDonald’s restaurant sustainability journey for many years, such as through kitchen equipment, lighting, and building and site design.
To achieve our supply chain goal, we need engagement with all of our suppliers and producers, particularly our biggest suppliers in the product categories that form the highest proportions of our emissions profiles. We have actively communicated with all globally managed suppliers setting out the need for them to set targets, measure emissions, and look to make reductions, particularly in Scope 3, in line with their broader sustainability strategies.
CDP Supply Chain helps us to better understand the level of action these key suppliers are undertaking across their business activities and will help to inform our future conversations. Suppliers representing the majority of our food and packaging spend are asked to report to CDP Climate Change and Forests, including 100% of our globally managed beef, chicken, dairy and cheese suppliers and the suppliers making up the majority of our fiber-based packaging. This year, a total of 55 global suppliers were asked to report, and we’re proud to be counted among CDP’s Supplier Engagement leader board in 2019.
Outside the supplier categories detailed above, we have also encouraged all suppliers to report to CDP and have plans to expand our direct requests for disclosure to globally managed suppliers in other key categories in 2020. This guidance is available to all suppliers through our Global Sustainable Sourcing Guide.
We are working on specific plans for each of our key commodity groups that focus on specific areas of action to maximize impact. Looking across all of these, we know there are general action areas that will be a focus for many commodity groups, including:
- Elevated Farm Management: On farms, sustainability and efficiency are interconnected. A farm’s carbon footprint is an indicator of its overall efficiency 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 which supply the food for our menu and around the world, McDonald’s and our suppliers are working with farmers to help them improve their efficiency and reduce emissions by taking on more sustainable practices.
- Rebuilding Soils: Progressive grazing techniques and other agricultural practices can bolster soil’s ability to store carbon while at the same time optimizing its capacity to provide nutrition for animals. We are supporting initiatives to both help farmers to adopt management practices which improve soil health and at the same time ensure that farming systems which actively sequester carbon can be recognized in greenhouse gas measurements.
- Conserving Forests: Forests play a vital role in absorbing greenhouse gas emissions and creating oxygen, yet forests around the world are under threat from deforestation and degradation. We’re verifying that beef production in our supply chain is not putting forests at risk, and we’re working with partners to halt deforestation, which is estimated to account for 15 percent of global GHGs and presents a real risk to our business, supply chain and customers.
- Post-Farm Efficiency: We’re looking for opportunities to reduce emissions throughout the rest of our supply chain, including improving energy usage at supplier facilities, transportation efficiency and reducing food waste.
Our Climate Journey
While the most recent step in our climate strategy of setting a science-based targets is an important milestone to drive meaningful change at scale, the Company’s work to take care of the planet spans almost three decades:
- The Company first began its focus on sustainable packaging nearly 25 years ago with the establishment of a groundbreaking partnership with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The initiative eliminated more than 300 million pounds of packaging, recycled 1 million tons of corrugated boxes and reduced waste by 30 percent in the decade following the partnership.
- In 2015, we put forth our White House American Business Act on Climate Change Pledge, which outlined commitments that help address climate change through specific actions on issues such as deforestation, beef production and energy used in McDonald’s restaurants. This is supported by McDonald’s Energy and Climate Position Statement from 2014, which set out our view on taking effective, collaborative action to tackle climate change.
Also in 2015, the Company developed our Commitment on Forests which addresses our supply chain impacts on deforestation, focused on verifying and promoting responsible production practices in regions most at risk. This commitment strengthened the foundation of the company’s climate strategy as deforestation accounts for an estimated 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We are making progress in our sourcing of beef, soy, palm oil, coffee and fiber. Read more here.
Our goals and progress
We will regularly share updates about our journey, both progress and challenges, and report milestones against our goals and our carbon footprint. The Company currently reports annually into CDP Climate Change and plans to continue as we work toward this target. You can view our ESG reporting page here.
We are developing a new, enterprise-level climate tracking system in conjunction with our supply chain sustainability reporting system, TraQtion. We work with CDP Supply Chain to measure the actions of key suppliers on climate and forests.
We also support the development of several on farm measurement tools, such as CAP’2ER, a French carbon footprint tool for beef farms developed by McDonald’s France, MoyPark Beef, and the French National Breeding Institute, which has become the official tool of the European “Beef Carbon” program. We support the Cool Farm Tool to provide farmers with free access to a GHG measurement system, which they can use across multiple farming sectors and countries to assess their carbon footprint. We actively support projects to develop and align measurement systems, such as the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef’s climate action project, the C-Sequ group, and the work of Gold Standard. We will continue to invest in this work to help to measure and report progress in greater detail across the globe going forward.
Restaurants and Offices:
The Company will partner with Franchisees to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to McDonald’s restaurants and offices by 36% by 2030 from a 2015 base year.
5% of our target has been achieved, which represents a 2% reduction from the 2015 baseline. The US VPPA deals referenced above are expected to contribute an additional 16% of the progress towards our total target.
Through collaboration and partnership with our suppliers and producers, the Company also commits to a 31% reduction in emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) across our supply chain by 2030 from 2015 levels.
We are in the process of establishing a new data system to comprehensively track progress towards this goal and will report at a later time. We have issued clear expectations to all suppliers in 2019, and are developing more detailed expectations for key commodity category strategies.
We’re working with farmers, ranchers, our beef suppliers, and industry leaders to identify, magnify and share best practices on farming, grazing, and conservation, in ways that empower more producers to adopt those practices.
Smart Restaurant Design
Together with our Franchisees, we’re continuing to tackle restaurant energy usage and sourcing through innovations and programs to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy. This includes equipment and building design innovation, energy monitoring, and crew training programs which could provide long-term cost savings.
Packaging and Recycling
By 2025, 100 percent of McDonald’s guest packaging will come from renewable, recycled, or certified sources. Also by 2025, the Company has set a goal to recycle guest packaging in 100 percent of McDonald’s restaurants. We understand that recycling infrastructure, regulations and consumer behaviors vary city to city and country to country, but we plan to be part of the solution and help influence powerful change.