Protecting natural resources throughout the food supply chain is important to ensuring the uninterrupted, long-term supply of high quality raw materials and finished products. CELB eNewsletter editors recently interviewed Bob Langert, Senior Director, Corporate Responsibility at McDonalds about our partnership to develop and demonstrate practical methods to integrate the principles of conservation and sustainable agriculture into McDonalds supply chain management.
CELB eNewsletter: Why is McDonalds making social responsibility a priority?
Langert: Its a combination of factors. It is in our heritage; its in our ethical DNA. The company wants to be one with the community. Additionally, these matters have involved to the point where the broader corporate social responsibility issues, including biodiversity and conservation, are an integral part of advancing our business forward. And, most of all, our customers expect us to do what is right across a range of our social, environmental and economic impacts.
CELB eNewsletter: Why have you spent so much time integrating social responsibility strategies within your supply chain?
Langert: When you take a look at the impact of McDonalds systems, everyone knows that we are big. We have over 30,000 restaurants, operate in 119 countries, and serve up to 50 million customers a day. With these numbers, you can start to envision the importance and priority of managing to the best of our ability our impacts upstream with our supply chain. We certainly have a responsibility to use our purchasing power as smartly as possible to make a difference.
CELB eNewsletter: What has the reaction been internally by McDonalds employees?
Langert: There is a lot of motivation internally. As a matter of fact, its the exact opposite of what many people would think because if you read the papers, you would think McDonalds is doing this because we are reactionary and we are responding to the external environment or external criticism. But in fact, McDonalds management team and our people that work on these issues are the motivating factor. The strategies we employ are more internally driven, and we are hopeful that in time, the external environment will understand this better than today.
CELB eNewsletter: Would you caution other companies moving in the same direction that taking these steps takes time and needs internal buy-in?
Langert: Definitely yes because it really takes a lot of time to implement a really sound, sustainable, and long-lasting business practices in the sustainable agriculture area. You need time to build awareness and to educate. We believe if you invest in the time to raise awareness and bring more knowledge to the system, thats a natural motivator. Since some of these issues are not going against the grain (the way we do business), we are only competing with peoples time and the day-to-day pressures that anybody has in our business. But if we can get people to think about these issues, we have seen, and we are convinced, that it just unleashes the catalyst for increased internal movement for implementing such practices.
CELB eNewsletter: When it comes to working with CI and CELB, what has worked with this partnership?
Langert: When we were looking for someone to work with, we were looking for a partner with three different types of skills, which consisted of:
Due to these three criteria, your organization gets an A+ in all categories.
CELB eNewsletter: Could you speak about some of the positive impacts that you are now seeing from your partnership with CI?
Langert: We are really advancing the environmental score card that we developed through the pilot program with CELB, and we are thrilled with the success so far. Our pilot program involves five of the biggest items we buy: beef, pork, chicken, buns (bread) and potatoes. In almost all the scorecard categories, water, energy, and air wastethe test results are terrific. For example, test results show water savings ranging from 12-to-42 percent. Due to these terrific results, this is why we are expanding the program. We see the intersection of protecting the environment and protecting our earths biodiversity assets as good for business. We are convinced that if we save our natural resources, we are taking a very fiscally conservative approach as well.
CELB eNewsletter: Do you think it is important that other food service companies start to integrate sustainability actions into their systems?
Langert: We really need other companies to get involved because one company alone cant solve systemic agricultural issues. While we have taken actions within our own power, our direct influence is not as big as people think. If we are going to shift agricultural practices and continuously improve them, we need more companies involved. I think with consumers caring more and more about their food and how it is sourced, more companies will get on board and we are going to see some great advancements.
CELB eNewsletter: In terms of your suppliers, has this initiative helped build stronger relationships? Have you been surprised by anything you have seen when working with this issue?
Langert: I have been working with our supply chain for over 15 years, so I guess I am always delightfully surprised how engaged our suppliers become. I am constantly amazed at the strength of our supply chain relationships. We are pleased with their collaborative spirit and openness to step-up to the plate and share and act upon our mutual objectives. We have seen supplier leadership on animal welfare and social accountability, and now more recently on the conservation and environmental front. They look at this the same way we doas a positive challenge to tackling important issues.
CELB eNewsletter: On the fish side, what are the changes you have seen with fish sourcing since you have started to put these guidelines into place?
Langert: The biggest change is that we shifted some of our purchasing, mostly due to having really good tools thanks to CI. Due to your terrific expertise, we have a monitoring system for the fish we use, and with this knowledge, we have been able to shift purchases to more sustainable fisheries.
CELB eNewsletter: In terms of either the fish or the agriculture side can you think of any issues that were particularly challenging that you had to work through?
Langert: I think the biggest challenge is having a high degree of patience. Earlier, I spoke about the need to take your time and not rush through the process. We all want to get things done quicker. However, we need to take the long-term view. We should be sitting here 10 years from now reflecting upon today and the meaningful results we have accomplished.
CELB eNewsletter: Just recently McDonalds was accepted as a CERES partner, what does that mean for you? How has it resonated within McDonalds?
Langert: I think it builds our pride and its a real testament to the kind of track record that we have had working on these issues. We were just chosen for the Dow Jones Sustainability Index as well, so when those things happen, they give our team the energy and reinforcement to keep at it.
CELB eNewsletter: McDonalds is also a member of CELBs Business & Biodiversity Council (BBC). How has membership on the council been helpful to you?
Langert: The vision and concept of the BBC fits into what we are trying to do at McDonalds. By being a part of the council, we are able to engage with other companies that are liked minded. Together, our brands and our purchasing power, our influence and communication and outreach network can create change, and I am excited about that and excited about our potential.
CELB eNewsletter: Have you had any particular issue that the BBC has helped you work through at McDonalds?
Langert: There is the Supply Chain Working group, which is a roll-up your sleeves working group dedicated to how we can collectively advance complicated biodiversity issues within our respective supply chains. The BBC, through this working group, is very helpful in understanding other organizations challenges and issues, and applying their learnings to McDonalds.