By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

October 7, 2021 | 4 min read

McDonald’s latest brand platform and campaign ‘Change a little, change a lot’ hopes to communicate its positive impact on people, farming and the planet following the brand’s announcement of its aims to have net-zero emissions across the UK & Ireland business by 2040.

Further details of McDonald’s net-zero mission are outlined fully in its Plan For Change – a comprehensive business and sustainability strategy that launched this week. It sets McDonald’s intentions across four key areas: planet, people, restaurants and food. McDonald’s says these developments are to ensure the business leads positive change “from farms to front counter.”

As part of its Plan for Change, McDonald’s has:

  • Pledged to help one million people gain new skills and open the door to jobs by 2030, including introducing a youth worker into every restaurant by 2024 and supporting 3,000 apprentices by 2025.

  • Set a target to ensure customer packaging is made from renewable, recycled or certified sources and designed to be recyclable or compostable by 2024, and is due to open its first restaurant built to a UK industry net-zero emissions standard in Shropshire later this year.

  • Committed to go even further to source quality, sustainable ingredients and support its farmers and suppliers, including investing in sector-leading research with a new Sustainable Beef Network.

McDonald’s has previously been condemned for its negative impact on the environment due to its historically large use of plastic packaging. It then came under fire in 2019 when it was revealed its paper straws could not be recycled.

The brand has also often been criticized by activists for its farming practices, including raising its cattle on a soy-based feed blamed for causing the widescale loss of trees in the Amazon and other parts of South America.

However, earlier this month the CMA announced it will be cracking down on brands making claims over their environmental credentials, issuing new guidance and advising that businesses have until the new year to comply with the law.

Michelle Graham-Clare, chief marketing officer at McDonald’s, says of the brand’s green credentials: “We have a long history of making a positive impact where it really matters for people and the planet. But we are at a moment now where we need to accelerate our ambition.

“This new brand platform will enable us to talk about the actions we’re taking to improve opportunities for young people, help growers adopt sustainable farming practices and ensure our packaging is made from renewable, recycled or certified sources.

“With 1,400 restaurants, over 23,000 British and Irish farmers and four million customers visiting us every day, we want to show how these and the other changes we’re making in our Plan for Change will make a real difference.”

The campaign itself was devised by Leo Burnett London, and has three 40-second TV ads that hero the small changes McDonald’s is making across three key areas: youth, farming and waste.

The creative for the first ad, which focuses on waste reduction, illustrates a series of examples of the actions McDonald’s is taking that people may be unaware of. This includes converting used cooking oil into biodiesel for its trucks, recycling McCafé cups into greetings cards, and turning Happy Meal toys into kids’ playgrounds. The ad lands on the pledge that McDonald’s plans to collect, recycle, compost or reuse as much waste as possible, “which just goes to show when you change a little, you change a lot.”

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