McDonald’s pledges to achieve net zero emissions by 2040

Fast-food chain plans to roll-out new net zero energy-designed restaurants

McDonald’s already recycles cooking oil into fuel for its delivery trucks in Ireland and has removed plastic toys from its Happy Meals.

Fast-food chain McDonald’s has pledged to achieve net zero emissions across its Irish and UK business by 2040.

As part of a global sustainability drive, the company said it aims to lower emissions by about a third for both its suppliers and its 40,000 company-run and franchised restaurants by 2030 on its way to achieving net zero emissions across the global operation by 2050.

In Ireland and Britain, its net-zero target has been set a decade earlier. Net zero means consuming only as much energy as you produce.

As part of the plan, the burger chain will roll-out new net-zero restaurants with technology to generate enough energy on-site to cover the outlet’s annual energy needs.



The first of these restaurants will open in Shropshire in the UK next month and will serve as a blueprint for future new builds in Ireland and Britain.

Beth Hart, vice-president of supply chain and brand trust at McDonald's UK and Ireland, said the Shropshire restaurant will serve as a learning hub for McDonald's to test solutions for reducing energy and water use.

She said that by 2023 furniture, cutlery and trays in new and refurbished restaurants would be made solely from recycled or certified materials that can be recycled or reused.

The company is also in the process of developing a technology to use its waste coffee grind as a material in the construction of new trays and cladding in restaurants.

“We’re looking at complete circular solutions across our restaurants,” Ms Hart said.

McDonald’s already recycles cooking oil into fuel for its delivery trucks in Ireland and has removed plastic toys from its Happy Meals.

The company’s new Plan for Change climate strategy also contains ambitious plans to retrofit existing restaurants, including 95 in the Republic, to operate to a net zero emissions specification; new targets around packaging and waste; and a “new sustainable beef network”.

The company recently introduced a new 100 per cent vegan burger to its menu.

Beef is one of the major faultlines in Ireland’s climate policy with emissions from livestock accounting from more than a third of all emissions.

McDonald’s has pledged to “go even further” to source quality, sustainable ingredients, Ms Hart said.

“We are very committed to a sustainable beef programme and model in Ireland,” Ms Hart said, noting the company already adhered tightly to Bord Bia’s Origin Green sustainable sourcing standards.

She said Origin Green and the buying power of McDonald’s “could effect real change together”.


The company’s plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2040 will include using soy in ingredients and the animal feed in its supply chain that is deforestation-free by 2026.

Paul Pomroy, chief executive, McDonald's UK and Ireland said: "McDonald's has a long history of taking action where it really matters to the communities we serve."

“But we are at a moment now where we need to accelerate our ambition and work even harder to look after each other and the planet,” he said.

“ This new Plan for Change is not just our sustainability strategy, it’s our business priority. That means it isn’t a plan for one change, but for many - changes that together, with 1,400 restaurants, over 130,000 people, 23,000 Irish and British farmers and four million customers visiting every day, really will add up,” he said.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times