McDonald's & Environmental Defense Fund Mark 10th Anniversary Of Landmark Alliance

December 21, 1999

McDonald’s USA and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today marked the tenth anniversary of their groundbreaking alliance by announcing some major environmental milestones that began with their partnership in 1989. McDonald’s also announced it would continue to raise the bar on these initiatives, and set a new goal to further reduce energy usage in its restaurants.

Since EDF and McDonald’s USA agreed to work together a decade ago, the partnership has replaced polystyrene foam sandwich clamshells with paper wraps and light-weight recycled boxes, replaced bleached with unbleached paper carry-out bags, and made dozens of other packaging improvements behind the counter in McDonald’s restaurants and throughout the company’s supply chain.

Today, EDF executive director Fred Krupp and Jack Greenberg, McDonald’s CEO and Chairman, jointly announced cumulative highlights from their decade of environmental partnership:

  • Eliminated 150,000 tons of McDonald’s packaging by redesigning or reducing the amount of material used to make straws, napkins, sandwich packaging, cups, french fry containers and numerous other items.


  • Purchased more than $3 billion worth of products made from recycled materials for use in the operation and construction of McDonald’s restaurants. These goods include construction blocks, booster seats, tables, trays, roof tiles, bags and many other quality products made from recycled glass, rubber, plastic and paper.


  • Recycled more than 1 million tons of corrugated cardboard, the most commonly used material for shipping products to McDonald’s 12,500 restaurants in the U.S., decreasing restaurant waste by 30%.

“The cooperative approach pioneered by the Environmental Defense Fund and McDonald’s laid the foundation for an entirely new approach to solving environmental problems,” said Richard Vietor, Senator John Heinz Professor of Environmental Management at Harvard Business School. “Their landmark project showed both business and environmental activists that sometimes they can share the path toward a more sustainable society.”

“McDonald’s is proving that a company can do well by doing good,” said Fred Krupp. “The EDF/McDonald’s alliance added a new dimension to the relationship between corporate America and environmental organizations, proving that combining diverse talents and perspectives in a spirit of cooperation can yield sustained environmental results. On the eve of a new century, it’s clear that if you’re in business and you’re not a leader on the environment, then you’re not a leader.”

“When we launched our alliance ten years ago, I don’t believe either one of us could have imagined the scope of the results we are announcing today,” Jack Greenberg said. “Working with EDF, McDonald’s is proud of the tangible difference we have made for the environment in just ten years. As we head into the new century, McDonald’s will continue to set new, ambitious targets for environmental progress.”

In conjunction with today’s tenth anniversary celebration, McDonald’s announced the further expansion of its programs to reduce packaging and restaurant waste. In addition, McDonald’s will work with EDF and other outside experts to set goals by Earth Day 2000 to reduce energy use in its restaurants, with an initial target of at least a 10% reduction, compared to 1999. McDonald’s will continue its energy conservation efforts through further technological advances, building upon these recent accomplishments:

  • Installed energy-efficient lights in McDonald’s restaurants, saving more than 510 million kilowatt hours and 4,000 tons of greenhouse gases.


  • Constructed five state-of-the-art energy efficient restaurants in the U.S. that each achieved a 10-15% reduction in energy use.

“McDonald’s new efforts to reduce energy use, along with its ongoing efforts to reduce packaging and restaurant waste are gratifying because they demonstrate that EDF helped put in place a new environmental ethic that led to continued environmental improvements,” said Fred Krupp.

“As a service industry, McDonald’s hopes to lead the way in efforts to increase energy efficiency, creating business operations that are models not just for the fast food industry, but the service sector more broadly,” added Jack Greenberg.

In the wake of the success of this project, EDF and the Pew Charitable Trusts launched the Alliance for Environmental Innovation, which has institutionalized this cooperative model and engaged a number of other leading U.S. businesses to undertake a range of environmental initiatives. Among the Alliance’s partners have been SC Johnson, United Parcel Service, Starbucks, Dell Computer and Clairol.