Conserving Forests

We’re committed to eliminating deforestation from our global supply chains, and promoting responsible forestry and production practices that benefit people, communities and the planet. We work in partnership with our suppliers to make this happen.

Why it matters

People, plants and animals rely on forests for food, fresh water, resources and shelter, and forests play a vital role in absorbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and creating oxygen. But forests around the world are under threat from deforestation and forest degradation, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization states that 18 million acres of forest – an area equivalent to Ireland – are being destroyed each year. Deforestation contributes to global GHG emissions and results in losses of biodiversity, displacement of indigenous communities and animal populations, and is a risk to the security of supply of our raw materials.

To help conserve our world’s forests, McDonald’s supports sustainable food production across our supply chains.

On this page:

Our approach | Our actions | Our goals and progress | Case studies

Our approach

Our aim is to eliminate deforestation from our global supply chains by 2030. Our Commitment on Forests (pdf, 350KB) and its supporting addendum (pdf, 491KB) set out our vision to achieve this, starting by 2020 with raw materials that we buy in the greatest volume and where we can have the biggest impact – beef, chicken (including soy in feed), palm oil, coffee and the fiber used in customer packaging. Our commitment also extends beyond forests, to areas of high conservation value, and to the individuals and communities around the world who depend on forests.

We report our progress annually through CDP Forests, as well as on McDonald’s corporate website.

We are also a signatory to the New York Declaration on Forests (pdf, 786KB), a shared commitment from some of the world’s most influential countries, companies and NGOs to help end deforestation by 2030, and to eliminate deforestation from private-sector supply chains of agricultural commodities such as beef, soy, palm oil and paper products by 2020. Our work on protecting forests supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, specifically:

As well as these, we’ve mapped our Scale for Good initiatives to all 17 goals.

Identifying risk
McDonald’s partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and suppliers to map our five priority commodity supply chains to identify product origins and assess the risk of deforestation. Through this process we were able to identify high-risk geographies from which we source. This assessment paired McDonald’s supply chain data with that of the eleven world regions accounting for the majority of deforestation, based on WWF’s Living Forests report. It was an important first step for us to understand exactly where our commodities were at risk, and where we could take action to drive the greatest positive impact.

This chart shows which sourcing countries have been identified as having high risk regions for our priority commodities, using the WWF Living Forests report data.1

Click here to view larger image.

high forest cover country sourcing regions infographic
high forest cover country sourcing regions infographic

“McDonald’s is taking significant steps to protect the world’s biologically diverse tropical forests and grasslands, and to make no conversion, deforestation or forest degradation a reality in their supply chains. WWF partnered with McDonald’s to create its Commitment on Forests in 2015, which included identifying the company’s highest risk commodities and geographies to help prioritize efforts. Since then, McDonald’s has played a leading role in testing and implementing recently launched guidance from the Accountability Framework initiative which consolidates effective practices that ensure critical biomes are not compromised at the expense of commodity production.” Jason Clay, Senior VP Markets, WWF US


Working with our suppliers

The size and scale of McDonald’s supply chain, combined with our global business relationships with leading suppliers, results in a ripple effect of change across industries. We know that the policies and expectations that McDonald’s sets and the commitments and programs that our suppliers create are watched closely, and we are encouraged by this – because we know that no company can tackle deforestation alone. Where we have identified a risk of deforestation, we require our suppliers to put implementation plans in place to mitigate that risk and ensure compliance with our Commitment on Forests, as well as reporting on progress and compliance annually. Many of our suppliers are signatories to the New York Declaration on Forests and we rely on our trusted and collaborative partnerships to deliver on our 2020 and 2030 forest commitment.


Developing transformative and tailored approaches

Our ambition is to drive transformative practices by testing cutting edge technology, such as satellite mapping, and utilizing industry-standard definitions from the Accountability Framework and the Collaboration on Forests and Agriculture to define our work. We recognize that each commodity supply chain is different and production practices vary depending on the local context. That’s why it is critical that we work collaboratively with suppliers and expert partners to develop tailored solutions, strategies and definitions that are practical and effective.

For example, no existing certification scheme or credible process existed for tackling deforestation in beef supply chains so we established a relationship with Proforest, a not-for-profit organization focused on responsible production and sourcing, and AgroTools, a Brazilian ag-tech company and certified B-Corp that provides advanced monitoring technology, to increase our ability to monitor our beef supply chain and to help our suppliers take targeted action. During this process we aligned closely with NGOs like The World Wildlife Fund and tested emerging standards from groups like The Accountability Framework.

In 2013, we started working with AgroTools to track the origin of all the beef exported from Brazil and sold in McDonald’s restaurants around the world. We then developed a strategy in partnership with Proforest to define deforestation risk across the vast landscape of the Cerrado, determine the level of risk in specific locations, and assess whether deforestation was actually happening at the farm level. This process enables us to work with suppliers to tackle deforestation where it is happening. We have expanded this project to include beef supplied from other high-risk regions: Argentina, Australia and Paraguay.

“As McDonald’s Franchisee in Paraguay, Servicios Rapidos is proud to partner with our suppliers and the corporation to ensure the high-quality beef that is produced in Paraguay meets our global Commitment on Forests. The beef industry in Paraguay is demonstrating that the country is leading on conserving forests and producing beef sustainably. We are excited that the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef Conference will be hosted in Paraguay in 2020 and will help to showcase the leadership underway in Paraguay.” Edgar Vuyk, Chief Operating Officer Servicios Rapidos


Our approach to our beef supply chain

policy icon
policy icon

1. Policy development and adaption

The McDonald’s Deforestation-Free Beef Procurement Policy (“Policy”) was developed for implementing the McDonald’s Commitment on Forests in our beef supply chain in line with the McDonald’s Global Sustainability Framework; Strategic Sustainability Process; and Global Sustainable Sourcing Guide. This Policy applies to a list of priority countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil and Paraguay), where deforestation has taken place and/or is projected to take place. Each priority country has a distinct context, and for that reason, Proforest and AgroTools have gone through the process of adapting the Policy to the local context, including alignment with local expert NGOs.

2. Risk analysis at the territory level

The risk analysis is an important step to prioritize and direct efforts. We identify the main regions where McDonald’s beef is being sourced from within the high-risk countries and divide those regions into a smaller set of locations. AgroTools’ TerraSafe analysis tool uses a range of data sources to assess the level of risk within those specific locations - such as using the local definition of forests, and maps of peatlands, environmental hotspots, and other social and environmental aspects relevant in each location. This results in a risk score per location.

3. Slaughter-house engagement

We engage with slaughter-houses, prioritizing those with the greatest levels of supply to the McDonald’s System and the level of risk, based on their location. We require facilities to identify each farm that supplies the slaughter-house, and using the location risk-score AgroTools created we identify which farms are high risk.

4. Farm-assessments

While a farm location may be high-risk, it does not mean that deforestation is happening. AgroTools runs a farm level assessment, using satellite imagery of the farm area along with data analysis, to assess whether the farms are in compliance with our deforestation-free beef policy. Suppliers are expected to implement continuous improvement plans with any farms in their supply chain which are not in compliance to bring them up to compliance.

This reliable, real-time, level of detail has given us confidence in the changes that are being made in our high-risk beef regions, and allows us to continue to monitor our low-risk areas as well. It also means we can monitor and assess practices at scale, which helps us to progress toward our goals quicker and to achieve more. Download our 2018 risk maps.

“We have worked with McDonald’s for over five years, implementing a real digital transformation to drive their decision-making process and supply chain efficiency globally. As a leading Agtech company, dealing with significant challenges worldwide, we must use the most advanced technologies, multi-data sources, data analytics, sensors and innovative methods to build business cases for action. That’s exactly what we have being doing with McDonald’s so far.”

Sergio Rocha, Founder and CEO of Agrotools

Our actions

Partnering to end deforestation

We know that we must work on wider industry transformation to achieve our ultimate aim of halting deforestation. To do this, we work in partnership with others – suppliers, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other key stakeholders. McDonald’s is active in many multi-stakeholder dialogues to bring attention to forests and help drive action toward our goals. We also engage with a range of industry organizations and forums to identify solutions. These include:

  • CDP Forests – In addition to our annual CDP Forests report, the Company joined CDP Supply Chain Forests group as a founding member in 2017, alongside one of our largest Franchisees Arcos Dorados.
  • Cerrado Manifesto Steering Group - In October 2017, we, along with 23 other global companies, launched a statement of support (pdf, 44KB) for the objectives of the Cerrado Manifesto (pdf, 400KB), reaffirming our individual and collective commitment to halting forest loss associated with agricultural commodity production and recognizing the critically important role played by the Cerrado for its role in climate change mitigation, biodiversity, water and agricultural production. We currently serve on the Steering Committee for the group, and work with an international coalition of over 100 companies and investors to eliminate deforestation in cattle and soy supply chains in Brazil's Cerrado Biome.
  • Collaboration for Forests and Agriculture (CFA) – The focus areas of this work (beef and soy in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado, and the Gran Chaco in Argentina and Paraguay) align closely with our sourcing regions and products. We are providing continuous feedback to its framework and actively working to support solutions that help protect forests and native vegetation in the Amazon, Cerrado and Chaco.
  • Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef (GRSB) – McDonald’s is a founding member of the GRSB, and since 2011, has worked closely with industry leaders to bring together stakeholders from across the supply chain in order to drive collaboration and action around beef sustainability – which includes the conservation of forests. To support the delivery of the GRSB principles and criteria on the ground, McDonald’s has helped set up/ participates in national and regional multi-stakeholder platforms such as in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Forests have also been featured on the agenda at GRSB Latin America meetings, and we are excited that Paraguay will host the GRSB Global Conference in 2020 to showcase their leadership efforts on forest conservation and beef production.
  • Good Growth Partnership – We’re actively engaged in this collaboration between the UN Development Program, the Global Environment Facility, the International Finance Cooperation, World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International, and we are using GGP tools to support implementation of our forests policy.
  • Tropical Forests Alliance (TFA) and its Latin America Working Group – A global public-private partnership in which McDonald’s is taking voluntary actions to reduce the tropical deforestation associated with the sourcing of commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef, and paper and pulp.

"McDonald's is an active member of the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA), a platform hosted by the World Economic Forum that brings together governments, civil society and the private sector to address the critical issues of deforestation and forest degradation. McDonald's leadership within the TFA demonstrates a growing commitment to driving transformational change not only in their own supply chain, but also more broadly across industries and jurisdictions." Justin Adams, Executive Director Tropical Forest Alliance

“Finding the balance between competing pressures on forests and other natural resources is a critically important and complex challenge. We applaud McDonald’s for their ongoing efforts to not just avoid unsustainable practices in their supply chains, but to work constructively with their suppliers, governments, NGOs and communities to find practical and positive solutions.” John Buchanan, Vice President Sustainable Production Center For Environmental Leadership In Business, Conservation International


Demonstrating progress

McDonald’s is proud to support the group of NGOs that make up the Accountability Framework Initiative as they work to create common definitions and guidance for establishing, implementing, and demonstrating progress on ethical supply chain commitments in agriculture and forestry.

McDonald’s incorporated the Accountability Framework’s initial guidance into our Deforestation-Free Beef Procurement Policy and our raw material specifications for beef, while providing feedback on the practical application of this important set of guidance.  Additionally, in alignment with the Accountability Framework’s reporting expectations, McDonald’s believes it’s critical that companies adopt a more transparent and consistent approach to tracking progress, clarifying what progress has been made at various stages of the implementation journey, as well as challenges that remain as we approach 2020.

One of the ways McDonald’s has been working to adopt a transparent and consistent approach is through our work with Proforest. We have an ongoing relationship to develop criteria, definitions and protocols for our sourcing activities, as well as implementing a strategy for engaging with our suppliers and monitoring and supporting their continuous improvement. Since 2017, McDonald’s has been one of several organizations to work with Proforest to develop a comprehensive framework to report on commitments to conserve forests. This framework aims to provide greater transparency on the implementation phases of forest commitments and give visibility into the actions of companies as commodities move from being an unknown risk to demonstrating delivery on commitments to conserve forests.  We believe that this is the most transparent way in which to demonstrate progress, as it reflects the work and analysis necessary throughout the process of a commodity becoming free from deforestation. Once finalized, we look forward to utilizing this framework to report on our commodities’ progress toward our commitment.

“McDonald's have demonstrated a commitment to leadership, clear focus on practical implementation and results, and a collaborative approach, which to date has made the implementation of its Commitment on Forests a relatively quick, efficient and transparent process. This is despite all of the complexities linked to the different supply chains and the sustainability challenges in the producing regions of their raw materials. Proforest is proud to provide technical support to McDonald's on this journey towards deforestation-free supply chains.” Neil Judd, Co-founder and Director


Supporting jurisdictional approaches

We are supportive of jurisdictional approaches as they enable companies sourcing agricultural commodities to collaborate with local governments, communities, and producers in their sourcing region. By working together, we can all ensure that local laws, regional efforts, and corporate policies work in concert to make regions deforestation-free. One of the leading jurisdictional approaches is the Produce, Conserve, Include (PCI) strategy in Mato Grosso, Brazil. McDonald’s has been mapping our beef volumes sourced from the Mato Grosso area to understand what volumes of beef our suppliers buy from this jurisdiction for the McDonald’s system and exploring ways to support this jurisdictional approach.

One of the projects under the PCI strategy is the PECSA Program (formerly Novo Campo), a program that McDonald’s and Arcos Dorados - our Franchisee in Latin America – participated in along with the Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock, local NGOs and industry partners. The PECSA Program aims to help eliminate deforestation in the Amazon Biome and to meet the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef principles and criteria. With a target to restore 10,000 hectares of degraded land to improved pastures, the  PECSA Program focuses on the recovery of degraded pastures and improvements in animal management, protecting the area’s biodiverse ecosystems.

1 Based on data captured primarily through the McDonald’s Global Supply Chain and Sustainability annual raw material survey of suppliers. It does not quite capture 100% of volume as a few smaller volume suppliers have not shared data via this process.

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