McDonald's Sustainability VP Wants to Collaborate, Not Mandate

ANALYSIS - Bob Langert, McDonald's VP of Global Sustainability, said that "sustainability isn't broken," but it's "filled with opportunity" to grow the industry, writes Sarah Mikesell, 5m senior editor.
calendar icon 5 February 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

Bob Langert, McDonald's Global Beef Sustainability VP, in an exclusive interview at the National Cattleman's Beef Association conference with Sarah Mikesell, 5m Senior Editor.

McDonald's strategy is to change the mindset that sustainability is a nebulous term and something to be afraid of. They are focused on leveraging sustainability to grow their business while making a positive difference in society.

"We came here to collaborate, not mandate. Our philosophy at McDonald's is that we have long-term relationships with our suppliers. Our whole spirit of working with the supply chain is hand-shake agreements," he said. "We're not one to dictate on high and prescribe how things get done and to me that's not sustainable either. We respect our suppliers - we respect that they are the experts."

However, Langert said the cattle industry can't just say they are transparent, they have to prove it to consumers by using metrics and measures that they are getting sustainable beef.

He also spoke about the importance of transparency in the industry.

"I think the world is going to get even more transparent," Langert said. "So we had better embrace transparency as something to our advantage - both at McDonald's and in food and agriculture," he said.

He sees an opportunity to use transparency and show that agriculture is proud of what it's doing.

"We have a great system when you take a look at food, ag and beef - it's so affordable, so abundant, so safe, so high quality.

"I want people to know that we aren't looking at sustainability because it's broken; it's the exact opposite. There's a strong agricultural system out there that the consumer needs to know more about through transparency."

He said if the industry isn't proud of something, then let's change it.

"When the consumer knows more, they like it more, they are going to buy beef more often. They'll come to McDonald's more often and are more loyal," he said.

The result is that McDonald's buys more, and the beef industry is rewarded.

Sarah Mikesell


Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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