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McDonald’s Polska on a sustainable track

Interview with Anna Borys, Market Impact Lead and Board Member at McDonald’s Polska.

McDonald’s Polska has taken major changes in its operations in recent years. How did these come about and what role did new leadership styles play?

McDonald’s has a long-term and stable strategy, which is being implemented in all markets. At the same time, our activity is a constant response to changes – those coming from the outside and those resulting from growing scale. In recent years, the pandemic has been a test of our business resilience. In conditions of total unpredictability, we have confirmed the ability to maintain the stability of the three pillars of our system: our employees, franchisees and suppliers. To meet this challenge, we have had to learn to be more flexible and quick in making decisions.

Today, the most important factor that forces changes is the increase in the scale of our operations. When I joined McDonald’s, we were celebrating the opening of 400 restaurants in Poland, today we have over 520, and we plan to open about 30 restaurants a year in the coming years. This means that there is more of everything – franchisees (currently more than 90% of the premises are restaurants run by local entrepreneurs), employees, guests, suppliers. This necessitates constant revision of approaches, searching for new, more effective tools to support coordination within the system.

As the scale increases, so does our impact on the environment. Therefore, a sustainable approach to business plays an increasingly important role in our strategy. This applies to both the environmental impact, the social impact and the way the company is managed. It means change on many levels.

An example is the way we have been managing packaging waste for four years. In order to be able to recycle food packaging, such as coffee cups, which are coated with a thin layer of plastic, and food-contaminated waste, we have developed a technology that makes this possible together with our recycler. We equipped our restaurants with segregation bins, built a logistics system, and our supplier provided recycling infrastructure. Paper towels, which are made from used packaging, go to our restaurants and serve guests. We also created an advertisement about waste processing, in which we explain why sorting and closing the loop make sense. This shows the world how the expectations of our guests and our company are changing.

Is there a specifically Polish leadership model/style or culture that has benefited McDonald’s Polska and that could be rolled out in other companies/countries?

McDonald’s is a global organization with a unique culture and deeply rooted values. In this respect, the team in Poland is no different from teams in other markets. Certainly our feature is ambition. We stand out for the quality of our restaurants and our restaurant teams. You only need to visit McDonald’s restaurants in other countries to appreciate it. The second feature worth emphasizing is innovation. We often create our own solutions that inspire others. An example is our packaging processing system.

What are your ambitions for McDonald’s Polska?

Sustainable business development and further increase of trust in the brand – because there is no development without trust. I am convinced that as a large brand we have a special responsibility to act in accordance with our values, with respect for the environment and responding to the needs of our guests. I know we still have a lot to do. We are working on reducing the emissivity of restaurants, decarbonizing the supply chain. It all takes time because the scale is huge. On the other hand, every small change multiplied by this scale translates into a real change, which is why this effort matters.

Sylwia Ziemacka
Sylwia Ziemacka
“I believe our unique selling point is that we focus on what brings us together. Poland Weekly offers something you will not find anywhere else: a truly international and unifying perspective focused on content that builds cooperation and mutual understanding. This attitude doesn't make us naïve, but it allows us to focus on mutual understanding and a search for solutions. There are so many new challenges that we are all facing, such as energy transformation, climate change and supply chain disruption, to name but a few. By working together and sharing good practices, we can achieve so much more.”