“We recognize that the size and reach of our business puts us in a unique position to improve people’s lives and the environment. We want to use our Scale for Good and continue raising the bar on what it means to be a responsible company committed to people and the planet.” – Francesca DeBiase, Executive Vice President and Chief Supply Chain and Sustainability Officer, McDonald’s Corporation


As a world-renowned fast-food chain, McDonald’s restaurant and value chain covers almost every corner of the world. Therefore, no matter positive or negative, its every move is going to have great influence on the world. The following article is going to introduce McDonald’s sustainability policies, from which the best practices of setting up sustainability approaches and management systems are highlighted. As a leader in the food and beverage industry and food service industry, the comprehensive and thorough sustainability approaches that McDonald’s has taken can be regarded as an industry benchmark, which has a great reference value for other food and beverage practitioners to learn from.

From responsibly sourced raw cooking materials all the way to environmentally friendly delivery fleet, the scope of sustainability issues that a company can manage is so big that it has to prioritise these issues reasonably as attention and resources that can be allocated and invested are not infinite. To establish prioritised goals and policies, a company should first understand the major social and environmental impacts of its business, while taking into account the material environmental and social issues that matter most to its customers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders. Through ensuring transparency and strengthening continued dialogue over time with its stakeholders, McDonald’s has identified Beef Sustainability, Packaging and Recycling, Commitment to Families, Youth Opportunity and Climate Action as the most concerned issues.

Best practices

To achieve sustainability is not something simple that can be accomplished overnight. Setting science-based and clear targets and drafting a roadmap for pursuing sustainability can facilitate a company to make a success step by step and navigate the company to arrive at its desired destination gradually. In 2015, the United Nations (UN) set 17 universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. With reference to the UN SDGs and to drive meaningful changes that reach beyond its system, McDonald’s welcomes and fully supports the SDGs as a roadmap for its Scale for Good journey. While McDonald’s work globally touches on all the SDGs, it focuses more on SDG 2 “Zero Hunger”, SDG 8 “Decent Work and Economic Growth”, SDG 12 “Responsible Consumption and Production”, SDG 13 “Climate Action”, SDG15 “Life on Land” and SDG 17 “Partnerships for the Goals”.

Commitment to sustainable development should not only be verbal promises or empty words, but should be fulfilled with substantial actions. Keeping detailed records of the targets set, actions taken, progress achieved and plans made are not only crucial for future review and improvement, but also for better reporting and more efficient communication with stakeholders.

For more in-depth analysis of McDonald’s sustainability practices and sustainability concepts applied, please contact us for applying for the membership of our monthly ESG research and newsletter.

  1. ESG Reporting, McDonald’s, https://corporate.mcdonalds.com/content/dam/gwscorp/nfl/scale-for-good/ESG%202018%20Website%20Archive%20FINAL.pdf
  2. What’s Your Scale For Good?, https://www.forbes.com/sites/csr/2012/02/08/whats-your-scale-for-good/#211d481d10d6
  3. Energy choices can be contagious — but why?, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200206102712.htm
  4. Facilitating Youth to Take Sustainability Actions: The Potential of Peer Education, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00958964.2013.805710
  5. Recycling for Profit: The New Green Business Frontier, https://hbr.org/1993/11/recycling-for-profit-the-new-green-business-frontier