Smart Energy Voices- Episode 25

Smart Energy Voices- Episode 26

The Evolution of McDonald's Sustainability Roadmap

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With 37,000 restaurants in over 100 countries serving 69 million people every day, McDonald’s understands how great an impact they have. The last time John spoke with Emma Cox, North American Sustainability Manager at McDonald’s Corporation during the 2019 Innovation Summit, the company was primarily focused on energy efficiency within the U.S. Since that beginning, their focus has had a global shift that will positively affect the environment. Listen to hear how McDonald’s is changing the world one community at a time.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...

  • McDonald’s focus on using its scale for good [2:21]
  • From national to global sustainability [6:15]
  • McDonald’s new Global Impact Team [10:32]
  • What’s next for McDonald’s sustainability? [13:25]
  • The importance of community [20:33]
  • Building a sustainability team [23:18]

The beginning of McDonald’s and sustainability

How did McDonald’s start this journey of global sustainability? Emma discusses the first goal McDonald’s established as their science-based target. Their goal is to reduce their greenhouse emissions by 36% by the year 2030. Working toward this original project has taught them a lot about what does and doesn’t work. This learning process has propelled McDonald’s to achieve a wider range of impact.

In 2019, McDonald’s announced their first-ever power purchase agreements. In 2020 they made more agreements that equate to 8,000 restaurants worth of electricity. These 1,130 megawatts of wind and solar energy are enough to power 275 million homes! Not only does this progress provide renewable energy, but it also provides thousands of jobs in the communities.

Good world for good food

McDonald’s focus goes beyond just making a good burger. They want to focus on doing more in the world and for their customers. McDonald’s wants to find more of what they can do and how they can positively impact the environment. To do this, they’ve created a Global Impact Team. Part of this team is focused on social impact. Their goal is to find how they can best serve their community and add value to the environment locally. Another aspect of the team is focused on government and policy. They put their efforts into what changes can be made in regulation that will help promote green energy. Finally, the communications and relations part of the team focuses on sharing the mission of working together to make the world better.

McDonald’s Global Impact Team isn’t large. It’s a small group of individuals who are passionate about renewable energy goals. Alongside their team, McDonald’s consults with experts to make sure that the best, most effective decisions are made. McDonald’s example shows that even a small group of people can help guide a company towards a sustainable future. By learning through the process and asking the right people for guidance, any company can make a difference.

Sustainability for each community

McDonald’s has a unique opportunity to bring renewable options to local small businesses and cities. These sustainable options can be accessible in otherwise unavailable places due to the importance McDonald’s places on community impact. This connects directly with McDonald’s brand purpose to make delicious, feel-good moments for everyone. Customers can feel good about the company they’re investing in because they’re also helping to create a healthier environment.

For years McDonald’s has supported communities through actions like sponsoring Little League teams and hosting community events. Community impact is a huge part of the consideration before placing a McDonald’s. Each restaurant location begins by identifying the needs of the community and defining ways to be helpful. By combining this focus with their large scale, McDonald’s is helping people, animals, and the environment thrive.

Resources mentioned in today's episode

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Connect with Emma

Emma Cox is the North American Sustainability Manager at McDonald’s Corporation. She leads Renewable Energy globally for the company. Last year, under Emma’s leadership, McDonald’s announced its first two PPAs, together totaling 380 MW, in the US. She believes McDonald’s can use its Scale for Good to transform the renewable energy market. After graduating from Columbia University in New York, she worked for the U.S. Green Building Council specifically on programs, events, and continuing education. From there, she moved to Chicago, where she worked for an energy and sustainability tech start-up called Green Per Square Foot—leading their Business Development & Marketing team. She went on to lead the Energy & Sustainability consulting group for Cushman & Wakefield before eventually ending up at McDonald’s, where she has the unique opportunity to use its scale for good. Having worked in many areas within Sustainability, Emma has a diverse skill set but has always had a passion for making the world a better place. At home, she is Mom to two young kids and enjoys traveling whenever they let her get away.

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