|This book review is from Dr. Simon Shane, who disseminates weekly news via Chick-News and Egg-News. Dr. Shane, thanks for your review, especially that last part where you say,”The Battle to Do Good should be standard reading material for any manager in the food industry or any aspirant executive pursuing a business degree or those with a career aspiration in any company where welfare, sustainability and public perception are involved. book.”
REVIEW – The Battle to Do Good – The Business Journey of Bob Langert
Bob Langert spent 25 years following an innovative and productive career at McDonald’s Corp., retiring in 2015. When he joined the company it suffered from sensory deprivation. Management was blinded by its market share, international reach and market capitalization. Executives concerned with “millions served” were also tone-deaf to emerging consumer concerns including sustainability and welfare.
In 1988 Langert was introduced to the emerging concern over polystyrene clamshell packaging used by McDonald’s for sandwiches. He was given the unenviable task of reversing sclerotic reasoning among decision makers in the company who were guided by practicality and profit. Fortunately he had sympathetic mentors and well oriented superiors. They accepted his ideas and recognized his deep-seated desire to do the right thing for consumers, suppliers the environment and his company. After the polystyrene clamshell sandwich-packing situation was resolved, Langert was assigned other responsibilities bearing on the supply chain that directly influenced public perception of the company.
McDonald’s suffered a pyrrhic victory in 1990 when it injudiciously prosecuted a case for libel vigorously defended by London Greenpeace. The trial afforded the defense an opportunity to publicize perceived inadequacies in welfare, nutritional content of menus and alleged exploitation of labor. The outstanding revelations that garnered considerable publicity related to flock and herd welfare. The trial at the Old Bailey in London was a classic case of “don’t mud wrestle a pig-you both get dirty and the pig enjoys it!” Subsequent to the trial Langert was tasked with developing a company policy and program on livestock welfare in the supply chain. He consulted with available specialists and organized an advisory panel representing the first application of a now accepted system of standards and audit.
Langert recognized the need to effect improvements by working within his organization. The passion emerging in his writing was reflected in persistence and patience, selecting problems with potential solutions and responding in a constructive way. One of the outstanding lessons in The Battle to Do Good is the need to be proactive in recognizing a potential problem and to address and resolve an issue before it emerges as a public relations crisis.
Early in his involvement in promoting welfare Langert recognized the need to develop a dialog with antagonists. He established a functional working relationship with animal rights organizations both with respect to caged hens and gestation crates for sows. His cooperation with the Environmental Defense Fund injected into the culture of McDonald’s the reality that promoting a good environment is ultimately beneficial for business.
The Battle to Do Good can be read on two levels, the first is the narrative of a responsible executive promoting somewhat novel concept to staid executives. The second aspect of The Battle to Do Good is a business text comprising a series of case studies on aspects of sustainability, public relations, and societal responsibility.
I have had the pleasure of meeting with Bob and briefly working with him and have attended his presentations on numerous occasions. His book reflects a unique philosophy based on a sincere desire to simultaneously improve company image and profitability through consumer-friendly policies.
The Battle to Do Good should be standard reading material for any manager in the food industry or any aspirant executive pursuing a business degree or those with a career aspiration in any company where welfare, sustainability and public perception are involved.
Marty Wolff was a fun interview. He read my book, so that really helped with the interview quality and depth. Marty is from Pittsburgh and we kidded around before the tape rolled about how I felt like I was talking to someone from Chicago in talking with him. Marty’s podcast is called the Business Builders Show and covers leadership topics for business.
Really thrilled that the National Student organization (based in the UK) wrote a very thorough review of my book. What I really like is that it is written by a student, my ideal target audience. And she like the book! I could tell she had read the book and thought about every thing deeply. I really appreciated the review. Here is one excerpt which refers to getting beyond the “faceless companies.” I really wanted to show people through my book the real world on inside a company.
“If you want to read something that will leave you with a great deal to think about regarding something you thought you knew, namely what seemingly ‘faceless companies’ think and do behind the scenes, this is one for you.This is an inspiring story of one man and his noble intentions as well as plenty to learn and take away, regardless of what you do or if you aspire to own a business.”
Here is my latest interview via GreenBiz: 10 Minutes with Ryan Bennett. It’s amazing how sustainability is getting integrated in so many places–now in chickens! I love it. Ryan has a smart vision and I think he can lead the way.
In back to back days, two fantastic videotaped events were released.
First, a very unique and special event. How many authors get interviewed by their nephew? In this case, David, the son of my older brother, Andy, whom I idolized as a role model growing up, interviewed me. David prepared like no other, and he was ready, as I you will see in the interview.
Second, my presentation and Q&A to the Fernandina Beach, Fl. Rotary Club at Story and Song Book and Bistro was released on C-Span2 on the BookTV channel. I think I need to tamp down the use of my hands and arms in the way I talk, but I thought C-Span captured the event really nicely.
March 11, 2019: It’s been a whirlwind for me since my book was published just about two months ago. I’ve been asked to be a part of several podcasts. All of them were fascinating for different reasons Here’s a recap and links for those who are interested in more.
Business For Good podcast with Paul Shapiro and Toni Okamoto
(i’ve known Paul since the early 00’s. Such a friendly person, so easy to work with, but we were opposites. He’s quite an animal rights leader and now into promoting alternative plant based proteins. But the interview was very fair. Had some tough questions and challenges, especially on McDonald’s Happy Meals, and the future of a veggie burger at McDonald’s.)
Here is what Paul wrote about this podcast:
“When you think about picking a career that’ll help make the world a better place, do you think of working at the largest fast food company in the world?
You may not, but that’s indeed what Bob Langert spent his career doing. The former McDonald’s executive was at the forefront of many of the decisions the restaurant behemoth made relating to social responsibility, from retiring styrofoam containers to paying tomato pickers more to improving farm animal welfare.
Now retired, Bob has a new book out about his career spent trying to help the fast food chain do better. It’s a candid look at where he thinks his former employer got it right and where he believes they came up short.
If you’ve ever wondered how a major corporation makes decisions about improving its sustainability footprint, this interview is for you.”
Purpose 360 podcast with Carol Cone and Chris Noble
(I got carried away on this interview. I love talking about “purpose!”)
Carol and Chris wrote: “McDonald’s serves 70 million people every day, worldwide. As one of the world’s most visible brands, McDonald’s has both an obligation and opportunity to create meaningful connections with those 70 million people and their local and global communities. Today, the company has a focused purpose to use its “scale for good.”
Getting there wasn’t easy.
Bob Langert, former VP of Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability at McDonald’s, gave Purpose 360 a candid look into the company’s journey from reactive to proactive. It started in the 1980s, when the company was attacked for its use of CFCs in polystyrene clamshell packaging. Langert was tasked with addressing the challenge. Since then, he has helped the company navigate issues ranging from animal welfare and landfill waste to obesity and nutrition. Highlights from the episode include:
- Considering every touchpoint with society. In transforming the relationship between the business and society, McDonald’s considered macro and micro issues, from nutrition and animal welfare to the environment and the economy. That holistic view helped McDonald’s drive industry-wide change in practices like the treatment of animals.
- Treat purpose like a mindset, not an endpoint. For Langert, purpose has always been a journey – and one without an endpoint. When integrated within the business – from values to operations – purpose becomes a mindset that guides decision making at all levels of the organization.
- Partner with your challengers. Greenpeace in particular challenged McDonald’s for its supply chain practices in the Amazon. Rather than shrug off criticism, McDonald’s acknowledged its poor practices and asked Greenpeace for counsel. It took a similar approach to partnerships with organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund. Langert urges purpose leaders to look to partners for expertise and accountability.
- Support internal ethics. Through years of turbulence, Langert attested to the company’s internal ethics. Stakeholders from the C-suite down to franchise owners wanted McDonald’s to “do the right thing.” And that made difficult decisions easier to navigate, from publicly addressing negative actions to transforming its approach to animal welfare.
This episode is just a taste of Langert’s story. Take a look into McDonald’s evolution in Langert’s new book, The Battle to Do Good: Inside McDonald’s Sustainability Journey. Find it here.”
What Doesn’t Kill You podcast with Katy Keifer
Katy was a delight, about as energetic as they come! She asked me some zingers toward the end, on food service wages. Give it a listen to see if you think my answer resonates–or not.
The GreenPeneur Show podcast with Michael Thomas
I loved this interview for two reasons. Michael asked me about current events, like whether meat should be defined as derived from animals, and a piece of art showing Ronald McDonald’s on a crucifix. What did I think of that? Plus, this show emanates from the southside of Chicago, near where I grew up. I am proud of my southside Chicago heritage!