The Case Study

McDonald’s came to Sweden in 1975 and since then has established 82 restaurants. In the mid-1980’s, McDonald’s received poor press and was listed as one of the least respected companies in Sweden because of their lack of environmental efforts. As a result, McDonald’s began a rigorous environmental agenda in 1989 with recycling cardboard. This single effort spurred nearly 15 years of environmental development for the company and has impacted many of the corporate divisions worldwide.


For Sweden with the times

För Sverige i tiden

Royal Motto of His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustav (1973-present)

In 1993, McDonald’s hired The Natural Step to assist the company in developing and implementing its environmental agenda. While the impetus for this agenda was to improve the company’s public image, the main purpose was to make McDonald’s Sweden environmentally friendly. McDonald’s Sweden’s business objectives are to have satisfied employees, satisfied customers and profits. Each objective leading to the next. With these objectives in mind, every store manager and owner took a one day course about environmentalism with The Natural Step. McDonald’s also created an Environmental Board comprised of company executives. In 1995, a program was started to educate all of McDonald’s Sweden’s employees about the environmental agenda. The intent was to educate the employees so they in turn could educate the customers. That same year the company began producing and distributing internal newsletters, magazine and videos detailing the progress of the environmental program. It was important that all McDonald’s employees felt part of the process, not as though the leadership was mandating the reforms.


In 1997, an environmental audit was performed which inventoried the progress McDonald’s Sweden had made. The audit measured areas like flow of materials and energy. The audit also uncovered areas that still needed work. From this audit, McDonald’s and The Natural Step worked together to develop a long range plan for the company’s environmental improvement. Bertil Rosqist, the Environmental Manger, said this after the audit:

In the beginning, we met The Natural Step and we educated people, we picked the ‘low-hanging fruit,’ and we had an environmental audit. Now we know exactly where we want to go, what we shall do, and what is important.”


This is a list of improvements that have been made during the time that McDonald’s and The Natural Step have been working together on the environmental agenda.


· Using hydropower energy in the bakeries and the national headquarters.

· Using wood framing, wood foundations and recycled plastic water pipes for new construction.

· Serving organic milk and beef at all the restaurants.

· Recycling 97% of all restaurant waste.

· Strategically locating distribution centers have down on fuel costs.

· Eliminating wasteful packaging by using smarter packaging techniques.

· Working with detergent supplier to formulate less toxic and more biodegradable cleaners.

· Meeting USA energy star and Swedish TCO (Confederation for Professional Employees) requirements for office equipment.

· Using edible ice cream cones instead of plastic dishes.


The program was evaluated through various steps. One was the 1997 environmental audit. Another was through opinion surveys of Swedish citizens. Around 1992, just at the beginning of McDonald’s environmental program, only 30% of people surveyed had a positive perception of McDonald’s. In 1994, a second poll was done showing that 58% of those surveyed had a positive perception of McDonald’s. The company was pleased with the results and continued its efforts.


Finally, in 2001 other divisions of McDonald’s began to take notice of the changes happening at McDonald’s Sweden and hired The Natural Step to guide them through some of the same steps. As it is said, imitation is the finest form of flattery. McDonald’s Sweden began its company overhaul with great success and the other divisions have lined up to follow along.

This website was developed by Devon Hylander, graduate student, American University, for the final project of Dr. Zaharna’s International Public Relations class. 23 October 2004.