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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability

Interview with Bob Langert, VP of Corporate Responsibility at McDonald's Corporation

As part of our ongoing interview series, Bob Langert, VP of Corporate Responsibility at McDonald's Corporation, recently shared some of his thoughts with us.  A big thank you to Bob for taking the time out of his busy schedule...

  1. Could you briefly explain your role and responsibilities within the organization?
Our team works internally to help McDonald’s be a socially responsible company. We provide a global framework for how we approach CSR; we are responsible for our CSR reporting; and in particular, we are very involved with environmental initiatives and sustainable supply chain efforts.

  1. What are the top three challenges facing you as a CSR executive over the next 12-18 months? How do you expect to overcome them?

  • Impacting agricultural issues more upstream:  We will work with food suppliers, the agricultural industry, and other retailers to address sustainable food policies and programs that at the farm/producer level—often several steps removed from our direct supplier relationships.
  • Becoming even more energy efficient:   Energy consumption remains our #1 environmental issue at the restaurant level; and there’s lots of room for more innovation and efficiencies with our equipment and building design.
  • Keeping our people informed and catalyzed:  It’s not easy to keep the people within the McDonald’s system well-informed and educated, but it is a critical part of what we work on all the time.

  1. Congratulations on being ranked 22 in Newsweek’s recent Green Rankings! It must be quite rewarding for you and your team to be recognized for its progress on environmental impact and supply chain sustainability.  What’s next for McDonald’s as it continues to improve its impact?

Besides energy conservation progress, I envision reducing waste more.  With technology advances and collective ingenuity, there is great potential to find ways to reduce waste.   While it is very difficult to recycle food waste in traditional recycling systems, new ways to create organic recycling are on the horizon.   For example, about 80% of McDonald’s waste is organic, either food waste or packaging that is made from paper fiber.  

  1. What would you say to those critics who suggest that while improving environmental impact is a good thing, what McDonald’s and others in the fast-food industry should really be focusing on is the health issue, and the negative impact of a fast-food diet on people’s well-being?

I don’t agree with the premise of the question.  I eat our food very often and consider myself health-conscious.   Take a look at what we have done in the past six years to 1) Add more choices on our menu (ie,salads, apples dippers, parfaits, grilled chicken); 2) Provide more useful information to our customers so they can make choices best for themselves and their family (ie, we are only company with nutritional icon system on much of our packaging); and 3) Promote physical activity through our Happy Meal programs and licensed characters.

  1. With your CSR blog for McDonald’s, you are part of a growing group of executives having such open conversations online.  What advice would you have for other executives looking to open a dialogue with customers and other stakeholders
    in such a manner?

Be part of the conversation.  Times have changed.   It’s no longer one-way conversation.  And a corporate website is not where people normally engage.   So join the conversation where it is, and realize you are not in control anymore.  But that’s the idea.   And it’s all worth it, because CSR and sustainability should be mainstream conversation, not something peripheral, so when we build upon each other’s conversation, eventually, CSR will become more a key part of everyone’s day.

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To learn more about CSR at McDonald's, visit http://crmcdonalds.com

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I wonder if McDonalds considers animal treatment within their CSR agenda. Ethics towards animals is a rather important issue to consider when thinking of CSR in case the ultimate goal of Sustainability is within a company's vison. I dont think Mc Donalds is much worried about this issue, but I wish I were wrong.
I would be very careful to ascribe coming 22nd in the Newsweek Green Rankings as worthy of congratulation in a world dominated by mediocre candidates.

I challenge McD's to become a real leader in the fast food sector, to stop waffling about their CSR and start using waste oil with heat recovery to generate heat and power or cooling exporting surpluses to the grid, make the switch to truly degradeable packaging that can be processed alongside any food waste it contains, design and build passive restaurants using more local materials wherever possible, capture water from roof areas and use it to flush toilets and finally look to champion some really local food producers on the menu by giving them a chance to supply good wholesome food by opening up your procurement model.

Thanks for the interview, Bob.

However, I do have some concern with your statement in question #4.  With obesity rates shooting sky high, a simple menu change isn't going to fix the issue.  I consider myself extremely health conscious but let's be honest here, no one goes to McDonalds for their sodium rich salads.  I don't know if you can necessarily leave the choice up to the customer.  Much more needs to be done.

I have to say that McDonald's is a leading company in developing their talent for the future.  They have a "managers college" to teach, train and develop their workforce.  With more and more companies stopping to invest in these types of initiatives we are seeing huge skills gaps and talent shortages in certain areas.  McDonald's is pro-actively developing their people today with the needed skills for meaningful careers and contribution to society.  They are not only looking for outside colleges to do this, they are doing it themselves.  Perhaps you are not a "trendy" employer, but you are an employer who is on the right track for employment opportunities.

 

Did you ever think about adding a "bike lane" to your drive through window? 

The interview and I the concerns raised in the comments are excellent examples of why CSR needs to move beyond a level of compliance with companies doing less harm to an era of responsibility with actions that are creating measurable good.

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