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Sustainable Restaurants

With the launch of our science-based target in 2018, we are collaborating with Franchisees to make restaurants more resource-efficient. This encompasses everything from equipment and building design innovation to energy monitoring and crew training programs.

Across the globe, countries are in various phases of strategy development, but whether advanced or just beginning, we are all working towards reaching our target.

Why it matters

We recognize our responsibility for ensuring that McDonald’s restaurants create positive impacts for communities, wider society and our planet. It’s all a part of how we are using our Scale for Good.

On this page:

Our approach | Our actions


Our approach

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.

To reach this goal, the Company is collaborating with Franchisees to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to McDonald’s restaurants and offices by 36% by 2030 from a 2015 base year in a new strategy to address global climate change. Additionally, the Company is committed to a 31% reduction in emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) across its supply chain by 2030 from 2015 levels. This combined target was approved by the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi). Read more about McDonald’s Climate Action here.

The commitment includes working with Franchisees on being more innovative and efficient in restaurants through improvements such as LED lighting, energy efficient kitchen equipment, more sustainable packaging, and recycling.

Our move toward sustainable restaurant design supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, specifically:

In addition, we’ve mapped our Scale for Good initiatives to all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.



Our actions

Green Building Guidelines, Europe

We first issued Green Building Guidelines in 2009, focusing on McDonald’s European restaurants. This was followed in 2015 with updated, comprehensive Green Buildings Guidelines for new European restaurants.

These latest guidelines reinforced continuous efforts to reduce energy consumption through best practice sharing and presenting latest technologies available, and also emphasized the following key areas:

  • Location – developing brownfield sites, positioning the building to make maximum use of natural light and shading, and to be near other amenities (reducing traffic).
  • Access – providing suitable access for pedestrians, cyclists and disabled customers.
  • Land use and ecology – conserving the local habitat and wildlife.
  • Pollution – minimizing the impact of noise, light, odors, litter and drainage.
  • Construction design – making sure buildings are adaptable for the future.
  • Energy and water efficiency – ensuring buildings use these resources as efficiently as possible and, where it makes sense, use the potential for renewable energy generation (e.g., solar energy in hotter countries).
  • Environmental management practices – making sure we follow best practice to build in the most environmentally sensitive way.

Inspired by these European guidelines, in 2019 the development team of McDonald’s Netherlands started a project to re-evaluate all building components and materials with a preference for ones that are circular (renewable, recyclable, recoverable) and energy-efficient, while keeping costs in mind. This work on green building specifications will lead to more sustainable new stores and remodels, with a visible green flagship store to be built in 2020.


Renewable energy and reducing energy and water use

Energy efficiencies and renewable energy are already being utilized in a big way in McDonald's restaurants across the globe. 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 year1, which is equivalent to planting 11 million trees or taking over 140,000 cars off the road2.

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.

In the U.K., new McDonald’s restaurants have 100% LED lighting, which uses 50% less energy than fluorescent lighting. Over 120,000 LED lights have been installed across McDonald’s UK restaurants, right down to the bulbs in our emergency lighting. In 2017, we allocated $5 million to McDonald’s restaurants around the globe for LED upgrades. This has achieved a net cost saving of $14.3 million and a CO2 reduction of 100,587 metric tons – the equivalent to removing 21,539 cars from the road for a year.

McDonald´s France is focused on energy efficiency and water reduction. As a result, a typical McDonald´s restaurant in France utilizes LED lighting and consumes only 7 liters of water on average per meal, compared to 10 to 20 liters in traditional restaurant kitchens.

McDonald’s Germany has also successfully reduced energy consumption through LED lighting in the interior and exterior of the restaurants as well as an overall reduction in energy consumption by 14% as measured in 2017 compared to 2011.

In the U.S., we operate an environmental sustainability program, US 20x2020 By Design. The program aims to reduce energy and water by 20% by 2020, using innovative strategies in the design of new restaurants. These include LED lighting, low oil-volume fryers, high-efficiency hand dryers, toilets and faucets, and low-spray valves. McDonald’s prototype buildings in the U.S. are increasingly more efficient. Compared against our 2005 building design, we have achieved a 16.7% reduction in electricity consumption and a 19% reduction in water use. Our hot water remains hot but we’ve managed to reduce the energy needed to heat it by over 26%.



That’s not all…

See how we’re designing, building and renovating smarter restaurants around the world.

restaurant exterior
restaurant exterior

Seeing the light in North Carolina

Restaurants switching to LED lighting and even generating their own energy are starting to make a real impact in driving down our footprint, as two restaurants in the U.S. are demonstrating.

restaurant exterior
restaurant exterior

Sustainable growth in China

In 2018, McDonald's China announced its action plan to focus on green restaurants and green packaging. They expect to open more than 1,800 restaurants by 2022 and that these restaurants target LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards in the "Interior Design & Construction" category, issued by the United States Green Building Council.

restaurant exterior
restaurant exterior
Photo credit: Kendall McCaugherty, Hall+Merrick Photographers

State of the art sustainability design in Chicago

The Chicago Flagship was recognized in 2018 as the Illinois Green Emerald Award ‘Green Building Innovation’ winner. The Flagship is 19,000-square-foot steel and wood timber constructed and has applied for LEED certification.

restaurant exterior
restaurant exterior

Netherlands - Setting standards for building efficiency

An award-winning McDonald’s Netherlands restaurant has set new standards for building efficiency, thanks to a range of exciting design innovations, including its own wind turbine for renewable energy.

restaurant exterior
restaurant exterior

Australia – Energy innovation

Australia’s Forrestdale restaurant, which opened November 2018, earned the equivalent of a 4 star energy rating. The capacity of its rooftop solar photovoltaic array is equivalent to at least 10% of the restaurant’s annual energy consumption.

Employee pin
Employee pin

UK - Championing the planet

Planet Champions is a voluntary program in McDonald’s UK that enables staff members to be the environmental voice in each restaurant, generating new ideas to increase recycling and save energy.

restaurant exterior
restaurant exterior

Germany - Leading through example

To enhance environmental awareness the German market established the “Planet Award” in 2013, which annually recognizes a franchisee with exemplary environmental management practices in place.

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Father and son in the woods
Outdoor sign