KFC restaurant in the UK

Helping KFC become a net zero carbon business

The University of Liverpool’s Zero Carbon Research Institute (ZCRI) has partnered with KFC UK & Ireland to help drive the global restaurant chain’s goal of becoming a net zero carbon business by 2040 or sooner.

By utilising the scientific approaches to becoming a net zero business, developed by the Zero Carbon Research Institute, KFC will be looking to decarbonise their restaurant infrastructure through the consideration of clean energy, sourcing of sustainable construction materials, reducing food and packaging waste, and reducing supply chain emissions. Dr Stephen Finnegan, the Director and Founder of the research institute, has been appointed as a consultant net-zero carbon Director for KFC and will be supported by Tom Johnston, a University of Liverpool researcher and PhD candidate, who will be managing the entire project with KFC UK & Ireland, as they strive to become a leading net-zero carbon restaurant business.


The UK Government is driving a country-wide target to become net-zero carbon by 2050, but its only with collaboration between research and business along with applying the latest technologies can this be achieved. The challenges facing the UK’s net-zero target are varied, with vast changes needed throughout our supply chains and infrastructure development, including: accelerating the move to clean energy, ensuring accessible and affordable low carbon transport, adopting low carbon infrastructure, and developing strategies to enable businesses to become net zero.

KFC is ambitiously aiming to meet this net zero target before the date defined by the UK Government’s target. Paula MacKenzie, Managing Director, KFC UK&I said: “It’s incumbent on all of us to address the climate emergency and combat the long- and short-term effects of global warming on the environment and on people. Anything short of that will lead to failure, and I passionately believe that we can’t address the urgent action that’s needed in the world today without businesses pulling their weight and playing their part.”

To achieve this, KFC will be creating a circular, zero waste environment in food, packaging and materials by 2035, before becoming a completely net-zero business by 2040 or sooner. This will require a review of how each restaurant operates at every level, including their supply chains, day-to-day operations and a review of the buildings they are housed in.


The first step for this new partnership has been an analysis to understand the current environmental impact of existing KFC infrastructure, and a carbon assessment of their operations. This stage required building energy modelling (BEM), a process whereby simulations identify the significant energy users (SEUs) of a building and measures the thermal performance of the building envelope. This includes an analysis of operational carbon from use, and embodied carbon found within the building fabric. The software has been used to establish a baseline, from which all future actions can be measured.

The next step for the team will be developing a strategy and eventually a new standard (or “playbook”) for all future restaurant construction. During this phase of work, the ZCRI will work in collaboration with KFC’s internal team to ensure that any changes can be seamlessly integrated into current processes. A holistic approach will be taken to decarbonise KFC’s restaurant infrastructure, considering numerous carbon mitigation strategies including energy optimisation, both onsite and offsite renewable energy generation, sustainable and low-carbon construction materials, and understanding the interactions and behaviours of the building occupants.

Dr Stephen Finnegan, ZCRI Director and Founder, said: “People will ask the obvious question: Is this even possible? Can a restaurant have no carbon impact? The answer to both questions is YES. We are addressing these questions and many more by taking the most scientific approach possible. Of course, KFC will have a carbon impact and this project, amongst many others underway within the business, is the first step in quantifying it. It will take time and considerable effort, but it will be worth it, and we are 100% sure that achieving net zero carbon is possible.”


KFC will be leading the way as one of the first major restaurant chains to publicly hold themselves accountable on their journey to net-zero, demonstrating that it is possible for a quick-service restaurant to become carbon neutral. This collaboration provides KFC with support from a leading research institute with world-class expertise in developing strategies and solutions for businesses working towards net-zero.

About the Zero Carbon Research Institute

The University of Liverpool’s Zero Carbon Research Institute is a research and consultancy group lead by Dr Stephen Finnegan. Their aim is to support businesses as they move towards the government mandated net zero targets, by designing key strategies. The institute is supported by industry-sponsored PhD students.

Find out more about this project in the video below:

Back to: Collaborate with us