He was involved in opening McDonald’s in the former Soviet Union with the first restaurant opening in Moscow in 1990. The first restaurant was at the time McDonald's biggest, and was opened with minimal involvement from the U.S. parent company, for political reasons. It accepted only Russian rubles, not hard currency, and in the early days, the line to enter the restaurant could be several hours long. Due to Soviet supply shortages, the company created its own supply chain in the Soviet Union, including farms and packaging. At the 1991 G7 Summit in London, Canadian Prime MinisterBrian Mulroney (Cohon's personal friend) personally complained to Mikhail Gorbachev about the difficulties Cohon was experiencing doing business in the Soviet Union.
He is the founder of Ronald McDonald House Charities, which provides accommodation for families whose children are receiving medical treatment, in Canada and in Russia.