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The McDonald’s Green Initiatives


Background of the study

McDonald’s Corporation started its business in 1948 as a single restaurant in California. Currently, it comprises the largest chain of restaurants specializing in hamburger fast foods that serve a total of forty-seven million customers daily (Svoboda, 1995, p.1). The fast-food industry giant owns 31,000 restaurants in 119 countries worldwide most of which are franchises, joint investments, or company-owned restaurants. The company also employs approximately 1.5 million employees worldwide (Svoboda, 1995). The company’s range of foods includes; wraps, cheeseburgers, hamburgers, French fries, salads, desserts, fruits, shakes, and chicken products among other items.

According to Svoboda (1995, p.1), McDonald’s Corporation has been involved in a number of activities that are related to issues affecting their customers. These activities include; medical research projects, healthcare, education, and rehabilitation programs among others. These activities represent the company’s commitment to implementing its social responsibility programs. Environmental management is one such social responsibility. As early as the 1980s, the company started facing immense criticism of its environmental policies particularly those concerning the use of polystyrene paper bags (Svoboda, 1995, p.1). The criticism forced the company to remove some of the components used to make these bags that were believed to cause ozone depletion with weaker components as a major green initiative program. Unfortunately, this move did not help as much.

This paper seeks to identify the current green initiatives being implemented by the McDonald’s Corporation in addition to identifying the driving forces behind these initiatives. The paper also seeks to find out whether the company has implemented the ISO 14000 protocols including the current benefits or effects of these protocols on the company business.

McDonald’s current green initiatives

The McDonald’s corporation owns a number of green laboratories committed to developing environmental innovations to be implemented by all restaurants. The company aims at cutting the greenhouse emissions especially those related to methane in about 350 farms across Britain. The company also aims at reducing its energy consumption by 3% per each restaurant it owns as part of its 2008-2010 corporate social responsibility initiative (McDonald’s Corporation, 2010). This was to be achieved through the equipment the company had purchased that were to aid in cutting the energy costs in all its restaurants while increasing efficiency. In 2007, the company announced that it will be using biodiesel generated from cooking oil from its restaurants in all the McDonald’s joints in the UK. This move was aimed at saving a total of 1,675 tons of carbon. Additionally, the company’s UK suppliers are harnessing wind as a source of electrical power thus contributing to about 60% of its power utilisations and reduction of up to 10, 000 tons of CO2 emissions (McDonalds Corporation, 2010).

The company’s Australian supplier has been using potatoes’ by-products in the production of the gas and then they provide the remaining residue to farmers which they use as a natural fertilizer. Moreover, most of the company’s US restaurants are optimizing oil recycling in which up to 13,000 pounds of cooking oil are being recycled by each restaurant annually (McDonald’s Corporation, 2010). Almost all the 50 company-owned McDonald’s restaurants in Germany have developed software that helps in monitoring waste disposal in terms of quantities and costs incurred. In Europe, the company’s joints have implemented green initiatives through their efforts in installing solar panels, using heat recovery systems and windmills as part of the environmentally-friendly technologies. McDonald’s Australia has also taken a major step in water conservation through the use of low-flow spray hypodermics, smart irrigation programs, and dual flush toilets (McDonalds, 2010). Finally, McDonald’s Chile is part of a group of companies that have initiated a safer way of disposing of electronics into useful new materials.

What are the driving forces behind these initiatives?

Many organizations seem to have recognized the corporation’s potential in influencing public opinion through its massive numbers of customers. Therefore, the company needs to be involved in matters that concern the environment as it directly affects the lives of its clients. According to Svoboda (1995, p.3), the ‘Environmental Defense Fund’ realized this potential in 1989 and decided to engage the corporation in matters concerning the environment, particularly solid waste disposal. This move was in due time as the company was facing numerous protests from its young consumers who were demanding greener initiatives from the restaurants and a ban on the CFC polystyrene containers. As part of its corporate social responsibility, the company has realized that being a business leader also calls for one to be in the front line in conserving the environment.

The company admits that environmental issues are very sensitive and there is no one particular initiative that can be implemented and work for all companies as a block. Environmental demands keep on changing from country to country, state to state, and population to population. Thus, there is a need to identify these demands before implementing any measures. Additionally, McDonald’s is known to be at the forefront in educating and informing its customers about the environmental practices that are underway.

The McDonald’s ISO 14000 certification

The ISO 14000 protocol states that the ‘Environmental Management System’ should apply, “To those environmental aspects which the organization can control and over which it can be expected to have an influence” (Johnson, 1997, p.58). According to the 2010 McDonald’s Europe environmental report, the company has started developing an ‘environmental management system (EMS)’ based on the provisions of ISO 14001. Most other McDonald’s companies are following the regulations of ISO 14001 certification. The companies include; McDonald’s Poland, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary and Sweden. These have either certified their individual restaurants or whole companies (McDonalds Corporation, 2010). This move has seen these companies enjoy a number of benefits. The certification allows these companies to manage various environmental responsibilities which have also contributed to their improved public image. The certification has also allowed the management of these companies to control costs in terms of fulfilling their commitment and improving relations with the government. In today’s competitive business environment, a company needs all the resources at its disposal for it to stand the stiff competition. McDonald’s corporation has taken note of this fact by implementing these regulations. The certification has also allowed the company to access a wider market and maintain competitiveness besides reducing risks and liabilities.


This paper has discussed the importance of conserving the environment through the implementation of various green initiatives by McDonald’s corporation. A number of issues related to environmental management practices have been identified and discussed in-depth. Additionally, implementation of the ISO 14000 protocols has also been shown as being behind the competitiveness and survival of any company in the marketplace.

It is thus important for a company’s management to take note of the concerns of the environment as these affects both the individual customer and the business directly. As indicated above, business leaders should also be environmental leaders if at all people had to take responsibility for their actions and reduce unnecessary risks.

Reference List

Johnson, P. (1997). ISO 14000: The business managers’ complete guide to environmental management. Canada: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Web.

McDonald’s Corporation. (2010). CSR press release: McDonald’s announces “Global Best Practices” in sustainable supply and green initiatives. CSRwire, LLC.

Svoboda, S. (1995). Case A: McDonald’s environmental strategy. Ann Arbour: National Pollution Prevention Centre for Higher Education, University of Michigan. Web.


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