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01.11.2011 - 10:30PM

Category: Corporate Social Responsibility

CSRwire Member Spotlight: The Cascade Effect

Langert

By CSRwire Contributing Writer Jayne Flannery

Small ripples can create a bigger wave. Bob Langert, McDonald's vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility talks to Jayne Flannery about building a legacy of lasting change.

Bob Langert, McDonald's vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility, has a simple, but ambitious vision. "Our vision is to change and improve the way in which food is produced and sourced, not only within our own organisation, but reaching far beyond," he states.

It is a vision that dates back to the late 1980s, when the company first partnered with an NGO, the Environmental Defense Fund to reduce its environmental footprint in relation to packaging waste. "That was a seminal point for McDonald's and a catalyst to start re-evaluating our entire approach to building sustainability into our supply chain. We eliminated 300 million pounds of packaging and it gave us the confidence to address other areas such as food production issues and animal welfare. We also learned many lessons, the most valuable of which was the importance of effective partnerships if we're to successfully leverage our size and scale to create lasting change," he says.

Twenty years latter, that first partnership is stronger than ever and has created the foundation for a three-pronged strategy that addresses ethical, environmental and economic sustainability. Two decades on, the results span an enormous spectrum of activity ranging from providing 5,000 women with antenatal support through Brasil Foods to a comprehensive programme to improve calf welfare in a collaboration with Arla Foods, the findings of which are due to be rolled out to the entire British dairy herd.

From an environmental perspective, suppliers can showcase a myriad of projects such as the Green Energy Self-Sufficiency Program developed by Inalca JBS to convert animal by-products and organic biomass into energy. By 2012, Inalca will produce 76,000 MWh of electricity in this way, which will meet over 80% of predicted energy needs and give with CO2 emission savings of approximately 30,000 tonnes.

Bob Langert is particularly proud of the advances McDonald's has supported in animal welfare. "We started working with Dr. Temple Grandin, one of the world's pre-eminent experts in animal care, back in 1997. Since then, our suppliers have made unbelievable progress. What makes the impact of our work so important is that in many cases, we only absorb a small percentage of a suppliers overall output, but we are increasingly seeing the results of our work integrated throughout the industry and globally."

"Our open door approach to working with external experts and NGOs has been fundamental to finding practical ways to develop improved working practices," he continues. "For example, we have worked with Conservation International to prepare our Supplier Environmental Scorecard which enables us to measure environmental impacts in the same way as any other business metric. The scorecard is already in use with bakery, beef, poultry, pork and potato suppliers in our nine largest markets and it will be extended further next year."

He believes that McDonald's has achieved a unique level of success through the way that sustainability is integrated into all business operations. "Programmes, polices and initiatives are important, but sustainability within our organisation has become so embedded that is a key consideration for every employee at every level of the organisation," he adds.

Looking to the future, he now wants to see McDonald's extend its influence throughout the food chain. "It is upstream at the farm level where key impacts can be achieved, but this area is also the most challenging as these producers may be three or even four tiers removed from us."

"We are currently working with the WWF on a sustainable land management program and sustainable beef production system which we believe will have far-reaching consequences for the industry as a whole. Our ultimate vision is that the sustainable land management initiative we are working on at present will enable us to source all our food from certified sustainable land management areas, wherever they may be in the world. It is a big and bold initiative that we cannot achieve alone, but that is our vision for the future."

About McDonald's Sustainable Supply Vision

McDonald's vision for sustainable supply is a supply chain that profitably yields high-quality, safe products without supply interruption while leveraging the company's leadership position to create a net benefit by improving ethical, environmental and economic outcomes. Click here to learn more about McDonald's Supply Chain.

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