McDonald’s 2014 CSR report, entitled “Good Business” shows just how hard it is to be ‘good’

In McDonald’s latest CSR report, called Good Business, the company says it is taking bigger, bolder steps with its franchisees, suppliers, and employees to bring about lasting change. Its first bold steps however, have to deal with the company’s economic picture: domestic sales have continued to fall for over a year; global sales are also down.

Of course, McDonald’s is so huge and internationally pervasive that it seems too big to fail: in spite of the downturn the company still made US$4.8 billion in profit on revenue of $27.4 billion. Bad economic performance can put a pall on sustainability efforts, and McDonald’s seems to be experiencing a bit of a slump.

The Good Business report generally outlines the progress during 2014 on goals for 2020 (outlined in the company’s Sustainability Framework). Those goals include serving 100% more fruits and vegetables in its top nine markets, compared to 2012 baselines; supporting production of ‘sustainable beef’ and beginning purchase by 2016; having 100% of coffee, palm oil, and fish verified as ‘supporting sustainable production’; increasing energy efficiency 20% in the top nine markets; getting in-restaurant recycling to 50%; and getting 100% of fibre-based packaging from recycled sources.

So how is the fast food giant doing? It’s a mixed bag, to be sure. In 2014 McDonald’s said that 30% more fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains were served compared to 2012. McDonald’s added clementines and melon slices to Happy Meals and changed to whole-wheat English muffins. Yet there aren’t any benchmark numbers given in the report of how many fruits or vegetables were previously part of the McDonald’s menu. Nor are there any interim goals mentioned in the report toward fulfilling the 100% goal in the next five years.

McDonald’s has achieved 23% of fibre-based packaging being certified or recyclable of the end of 2014. That’s more than double the 9.3% figure of 2012. Regarding the recycling goal in restaurants, however, McDonald’s reported that it doesn’t have sufficient ‘global waste data’ to detail its progress.

Progress on its eco-efficiency goals was negative. There was a 6% decrease in the energy efficiency per customer between 2013 and 2014, due in part, McDonald’s said, to fewer customer visits. McDonald’s reported a corresponding increase in Scope 1 and Scope 2 Greenhouse gas emissions of 5.9% between 2013 and 2014. LED lighting is a bright spot: the company has saved $11 million in energy costs with LED lighting and by the end of this year all new UK McDonald’s will be lit only with LEDs.

On to the beef

If there is one announcement in the CSR realm that has garnered McDonald’s an endless stream of good press it is the pledge that the company would start buying ‘sustainable beef’ by 2016. In this 2014 report the company reported its biggest achievement was that 96% of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB - a group of which McDonald’s is a member) agreed on the final criteria for what sustainable beef actually is. McDonald’s has also begun its pilot programme in Canada to figure out how to measure, verify, and communicate the sustainability of beef production. That sounds vague, and eco-activists insist that what GRSB has come up with is vague. No reductions in the routine use of antibiotics in beef production are targeted, for example.

But in just over a decade, starting in 2001, McDonald’s was able to assure that all of the white fish that the company now buys to create its Filet-o-fish is from verified sustainable sources – verified by the Marine Stewardship Council. Beef is a much bigger part of the company’s supply chain, so it would seem wise to give McDonald’s a bit of time to carry out its aims. In addition, McDonald’s deserves credit for taking on the goal – none of the other giant hamburger chains have joined in the sustainable beef journey.

Still, it would be great if this global fast food chain would put a little more beef into its sustainable beef goals, and by extension its CSR targets and reporting.


  • Follows GRI? Uses ‘select indicators’ from GRI 3.1

  • Assurance? Not indicated.

  • Materiality analysis? No.

  • Goals? Yes.

  • Targets? Not interim targets.

  • Seeks feedback? Yes – email address to a real person supplied.

  • Key strength: Digestible format in this short, 41-page report.

  • Chief weakness: Lack of substance.

  • Pleasant surprise: LED lighting has saved the company $11 million since 2012 in energy costs.

  • Level of integration: (1 to 5): 1 

McDonald's  fast food  Food  CR report review  CR Reporting 

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