TBTDG: “Standard Reading”

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

04/01/2019

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.

 

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