Human Rights

The basis of our entire business is that we are ethical, truthful and dependable.” These words are as relevant today as they were when spoken by McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc, in 1958.

Why it matters

Human rights are universal rights that are intrinsic to every human being; they include the right to equality and freedom from discrimination. While individual states have a duty to protect human rights, it is widely acknowledged that businesses also have a responsibility to respect them within their sphere of influence.

With a complex supply chain and a global workforce, involving suppliers and Franchisees from diverse locations, cultures and socioeconomic circumstances, McDonald’s has a deep responsibility to respect the rights of people who work for the Company, and to do business with Franchisees, suppliers and business partners that respect human rights for their respective employees. Under the philosophy of “none of us is as good as all of us,” McDonald’s strives to be fair, and to conduct business in a manner that respects people on both sides of the counter around the world.

We recognize there is no single solution to human rights issues, which is why it’s critical that we engage all stakeholders within the McDonald’s System, including McDonald’s employees, suppliers, Franchisees and business partners, to respect the fundamental rights for all people. Aligned with the Company’s values, this approach protects the integrity of the McDonald’s brand and also helps suppliers, Franchisees and partners protect human rights around the world.


On this page:

Our approach | Our actions


Our approach

Implementing human rights standards

Fostering safe, inclusive, and respectful workplaces, wherever we do business, has been integral to the Company for over 60 years and we will continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards. We take seriously our responsibility to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others and to address any impact on human rights if they occur.

At McDonald’s, we conduct our activities in a manner that respects human rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our commitment to respect human rights is defined in our Human Rights Policy, which applies to McDonald’s Corporation and our wholly-owned subsidiaries worldwide.

Our Policy is guided by internationally recognized standards, including the United Nations 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. Where the Company may impact the human rights of diverse and particularly vulnerable groups, such as migrant laborers, indigenous peoples, women, or children, we are also guided by other international standards that elaborate on their rights.

Our commitment to respect human rights is also set out in our Standards of Business Conduct, which apply to all employees of the Company, and in our Supplier Code of Conduct, which applies to McDonald's suppliers globally.

We recognize that respecting human rights is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort. We are committed to regularly assessing our practices and approach, and engaging with expert stakeholders to improve our monitoring, analysis, and remediation of human rights impacts.

Through our efforts to respect human rights we aim to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, specifically:

Read more about our work to support the global goals.


Respecting employee rights around the world

We’re committed to providing a safe work environment that fosters respect, fairness and dignity and is free of harassment, discrimination or fear of retaliation. We encourage open and honest communication among Company employees, and we provide many channels for Company employees to report ethics or human rights concerns. This includes an anonymous channel, the Business Integrity Line, staffed by a live operator from an independent company 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

We will not impede state-based grievance processes via our employee system. We do not require employees to waive their right to use such external mechanisms to participate in our hotline. We do not tolerate retaliation of any kind against anyone who reports an issue. We do not tolerate unlawful threats, intimidation, physical, or legal attacks against human rights defenders.  

In 2018, we created a global cross-functional Human Rights Working Group to help oversee the implementation of the policy commitment and assess and evolve our procedures and practices, considering changing global circumstances and an evolving global policy environment. In order to help Company employees understand their rights, and their duty to respect the rights of others, all Company employees are required to complete training on the Human Rights Policy in 2019, and it will be incorporated into onboarding for new employees moving forward. In addition to the online training, senior leadership has received in-person training in partnership with an external human rights consultancy. Our policy and training are available in 15 languages. Company employees are also trained regularly on the Standards of Business Conduct and are required to annually certify their understanding of and commitment to upholding the Standards.


Preventing forced labor

As a business, we also support the goals of the U.K. Modern Slavery Act, with McDonald’s UK publishing its first U.K. Modern Slavery Act statement in 2017. The Company does not use any form of slave, forced, bonded, indentured or involuntary prison labor.

This also means the Company is committed to ethical recruitment in our employment practices. We prohibit direct or indirect fees or costs being charged to those seeking employment with or who are employed by the Company for the services directly related to recruitment for temporary or permanent job placement, unless legally permissible and within the legal limit. This includes where we may use private recruitment services, a labor broker or employment agent or where we perform recruitment activities directly. Even where such fees or costs are legally permissible and within the legal limit, our policies and practices are designed to ensure that no one is indebted to the Company or to a recruiter, labor broker or employment agent in a manner that prohibits the individual from freely leaving his or her employment. Likewise, we do not retain employees’ original government-issued identification, passports, or work permits as a condition of employment (we may hold copies and/or temporarily hold onto such documents for no longer than 24 hours and to the extent reasonably necessary to complete legitimate administrative and immigration processing and/or comply with local law). Finally, the Company provides any agreements, whether oral or in writing, in a language understood by the person agreeing to be bound and expects that any recruiter, labor broker or employment agent will do the same and will be responsible for ensuring that the agreement is understood by the person agreeing to be bound.

We do not engage in human trafficking or exploitation, or import goods tainted by slavery or human trafficking. The Company is committed to the elimination of any forced labor in our business and our supply chain. McDonald’s Supplier Code of Conduct applies to our suppliers and is aligned with these goals and standards.


Identifying, preventing and addressing discrimination, harassment and retaliation

The McDonald’s system has always had an unyielding commitment to providing a safe and respectful work environment for all. Both the company and our owner-operators understand that we must provide a positive experience in the restaurant and create an environment where everyone feels respected and valued.

In support of this commitment, in late 2018 we began implementing new, mandatory and interactive training for company-owned restaurant General Managers and staff employees on harassment and discrimination in the workplace, as well as sharing this training with our Owner-Operators and their restaurant managers. Over the course of 2019, we will also be rolling out additional training modules on harassment and discrimination, unconscious bias, and workplace safety for all company-owned restaurant employees. Together with the operator and General Manager training, these incremental modules seek to build a stronger knowledge and response foundation for those who come to work at McDonald’s on what healthy relationships look like and how to manage difficult situations that may arise.

In January 2019, McDonald’s enhanced our discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation policy and training for U.S. staff and Company-owned restaurant employees to provide a more employee-centered approach. Our new policy reflects feedback from stakeholders across the organization including, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other third-party experts. Those conversations helped us to make the language of our policy even clearer and more transparent. The policy, which you can read here, has been shipped to all 14,000 restaurants in the McDonald’s system.  We have encouraged our Owner Operators to use this policy, along with other resources, to continue to foster a safe and respectful work environment for their employees.

Additionally, the company is offering operators a third-party managed hotline for reporting complaints of any kind. This hotline will supplement what operators already offer in their organizations and provide callers with an anonymous way to file a report and will be available the beginning of June 2019.  At the same time we are also encouraging Owner Operators to implement a shared values commitment to workplace safety that includes a mutual understanding and acknowledgement of our collective responsibility in ensuring a safe, healthy and respectful environment.

By strengthening our overall policy, creating interactive training, a third-party managed anonymous hotline and importantly, listening to employees across the system, McDonald’s is sending a clear message that we are committed to creating and sustaining a culture of trust where employees feel safe, valued and respected. Most importantly, it shows we’re changing to meet the needs of our workforce and the communities where we live and operate.


Inclusive contractual practices

McDonald’s is committed to diversity, equal opportunity and an inclusive workplace culture. This commitment is fundamental to the way we do business and we embed it in our policies and practices. We further recognize that maintaining our commitment will require ongoing reflection on and evolution of these policies and practices. In this regard, we are providing greater transparency regarding our approach to certain contractual arrangements we may enter into with employees based in the United States. Specifically, arbitration, noncompetition, and nondisclosure covenants have come under public scrutiny where their overbroad application may result in inequities. With this in mind, we limit our use of such agreements 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, representing less than 10% of the employee population in 2019, 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 General Counsel for 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); and
  • 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.


Promoting human rights in our supply chain

The success of the McDonald’s System lies in our trusted relationships with suppliers. We expect all suppliers, regardless of the cultural, social and economic context, to meet our expectations of fundamental rights for all people as established by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. This means treating their employees with fairness, respect and dignity, and following practices that protect health and safety for the people working in their facilities, all in compliance with national and local law. In order to provide goods and services to McDonald’s, direct suppliers must meet McDonald’s high standards. Direct suppliers are required to sign a contract committing them to upholding the standards contained in our Supplier Code of Conduct (pdf, 1.3MB).  We expect our suppliers to hold their own suppliers to the same standards contained in our Supplier Code of Conduct.

The Supplier Code of Conduct is the cornerstone of our Supplier Workplace Accountability (SWA) program, which aims to help suppliers understand our expectations, verify compliance with our expectations and work toward continuous improvement. We launched our first Supplier Code of Conduct in 1993 and have continued to evolve and strengthen it, to reflect updated international human rights standards, consultation with external experts in supplier workplace accountability, a human rights gap analysis and dialogue with suppliers. 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 Supplier Code of Conduct.  We also expect supplier self-excellence in these four areas through their implementation of their own management systems.   

McDonald’s Supplier Guidance Document is shared with all suppliers and provides detailed guidance on how a supplier can comply with each aspect of the Code of Conduct and how suppliers and their supply chains can meet our expectations. For example, the Supplier Guidance Document clearly explains our expectation of all suppliers: (1) that suppliers ensure that their hiring process and the hiring process of their recruitment agencies provide people employment under voluntary terms; (2) that suppliers should maintain legally accepted age verification records to demonstrate all workers are of legal working age when they commenced work; (3) that suppliers respect the right to associate or not associate with any group of their choice, as permitted by law, without fear of reprisal, intimidation, or harassment; and (4) that suppliers respect the rights of people to bargain collectively where such rights are established by law or contract.

Fundamental to our Supplier Code of Conduct 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 the fear of retaliation.


Grievance mechanisms and due-diligence within the supply chain

Our Code indicates that we expect suppliers to create internal grievance mechanisms and programs for handling reports of workplace grievances, including anonymous reports. Our Supplier Guidance Document provides a step by step best practice process to help suppliers establish an effective grievance mechanism, guided by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. While we require suppliers to 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 third parties, including suppliers and their employees, if they are concerned with breaches to our Code. Our Code explicitly states that the suppliers’ reporting programs must protect the worker’s confidentiality and must prohibit retaliation in response to reporting issues.

Human rights due diligence is incorporated into the SWA program, which includes on-site audits conducted by third-party auditing firms to assess compliance with our Code. These 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 local language and signed by the worker, and that suppliers do not retain workers’ government-issued identification, passports or work permits.

Instances of non-compliance are shared with the supplier during an audit closing meeting and in an audit report. Suppliers are required to complete a corrective and preventative action plan to address non-compliance. The plan must provide specific time frames within which corrective action will be taken, root causes analyzed, and policies and procedures updated. In addition, the plan must be designed to avoid recurrence of the non-compliance and establish specific accountability. In instances of significant non-compliance, suppliers are subject to a follow-up audit, the timing of which is based on the audit findings.

McDonald’s SWA program is designed to support suppliers in meeting our standards. However, there are circumstances under which McDonald's will remove a supplier from the supply chain to address instances of significant non-compliance with McDonald's Supplier Code of Conduct.

Our SWA program is built on the model of continuous improvement and we recognize our ongoing responsibility to regularly review and assess the human rights risks along our supply chain.


Our actions

Celebrating and advancing women at McDonald’s

In 2019, we launched our BETTER TOGETHER: Gender Balance & Diversity Strategy, which aims to improve the representation of women at all levels of the Company, achieve gender equality in career advancement, and champion the impact of women on the business. In addition, McDonald’s signed the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles to underscore our commitment to progress.

Supporting continuous improvement of suppliers

Our SWA program is built on a model of continuous improvement and education. We provide suppliers and McDonald’s Global Supply Chain and Sustainability team with training to understand the SWA requirements and human rights issues. The SWA program includes an online training platform where suppliers can access optional tools and resources that provide guidance on human rights issues, such as preventing forced labor. Training modules include; Ensuring Eligibility to Work, Protecting the Rights of Migrant Labor, and Implementing Grievance Mechanisms. For example, the Migrant Labor training aims to educate suppliers on the risks related to forced labor when sourcing migrant labor and key actions they can take to ensure they are protecting the rights of migrant workers in their facilities. Live training sessions provided by a third party are also held with our suppliers on human rights issues and in 2017 training was offered to suppliers in Malaysia on forced labor, grievance mechanisms, and managing migrant labor through AIM-PROGRESS. In addition to providing optional training to suppliers through third party organizations, we also provide in-person and webinar trainings to McDonald’s supply chain procurement employees on SWA and human rights issues through the year.


Verifying compliance against the Supplier Code of Conduct

In 2017, we had a total of 3,733 facilities participating in the SWA program. As part of the on-boarding process to become a McDonald’s supplier, suppliers must complete the required steps of the SWA program (outlined below) to verify that our suppliers can meet our expectations before they begin supplying product to McDonald’s. Our SWA program also includes on-site announced and unannounced audits conducted by third-party auditing firms to assess compliance with our Code. We work with a range of third party auditing firms around the world with expert knowledge and local insight including understanding local languages and cultures. On-site audits are physical inspections of the facility and will include visits to housing and cafeterias for workers. In addition, the monitoring firms also conduct private worker interviews and review facility records and business practices to assess compliance with the Code. During the on-site audit, auditors verify the supplier’s compliance with each aspect of the Code, such as verifying that all workers are of legal age to work. In addition to maintaining legally accepted age verification records, suppliers are also expected to invest in remediation systems in the event an underage person is hired, to assist in their return to their school or any other solution that can cater to the child’s best interest.


Step 1: Online training to help suppliers understand what is expected of them.



Step 2: Suppliers complete a rigorous annual self-assessment questionnaire to appraise their current systems and practices. This results in a report indicating areas for improvement.



Step 3: Third-party firms conduct announced and unannounced audits, which include inspections of facilities and workers’ cafeterias and accommodation. Auditors also interview workers, and review records and business practices to assess compliance with our Supplier Code of Conduct.



Step 4: The auditing firm shares any noncompliances with the supplier, who is required to produce an action plan to address and remedy the issues, ensuring there is no recurrence. In the case of serious noncompliances, a follow-up audit will be carried out to monitor progress. The SWA program is built on a model of continuous improvement; however, if there are instances of significant noncompliance with McDonald’s Supplier Code of Conduct, the Company may remove the supplier from the supply chain. The frequency of subsequent audits is determined based on the results of these on-boarding activities.


Monitoring human rights risks within our supply chain and evolving the SWA program

An important element of our human rights due diligence approach is understanding global and national human rights risks and using this information to evolve the SWA program. We assess the potential human rights risks of our supply chains through desk-based research, supply chain mapping and on-site audits, and stakeholder engagement.

To better inform our understanding of human rights risk within our supply chain, we also work with Verisk Maplecroft to use their expertise in risk analytics to identify countries with particular human rights challenges. A key indicator of risk we use is the country of origin where we are sourcing products or raw materials from. For example, we use analysis of country level human rights risks to help inform the audit cycles for our suppliers. Facilities situated in countries that are considered to be at high risk of such practices require more regular on-site audits regardless of the outcome of previous audits.

In 2018, we also began working with Verisk Maplecroft to conduct a human rights impact assessment of key commodities in our supply chains. 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.


Partnering for progress

To continue to ensure our supplier program addresses emerging human rights issues and risks, we participate in initiatives such as AIM-PROGRESS, which supports responsible sourcing, and 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.

We also believe that real, systemic change throughout the supply chain requires partnership with industry. That’s why we joined the ICTI Care Program for our Happy Meals toys scheme in 2016, bringing together industry partners to support a sustainable supply chain for the toy and entertainment industry.


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