Bob Langert - Former VP Sustainability at McDonalds and Editor at Large at GreenBizz

Bob Langert - Former VP Sustainability at McDonalds and Editor at Large at GreenBizz

Bob led the development of McDonald’s 2020 Sustainability Vision and Framework, including McDonald’s commitment to the environment, supply chain sustainability, and balanced menu choices.  He retired from McDonald’s, March, 2015 and joined the GreenBiz Group, writing a regular column, The Inside View; and helping with the Green Biz Executive Network. He is President of Mainstream Sustainability, advising companies on sustainability strategies, and a nationally recognized speaker. He is writing a book entitled “The Battle to Do Good; Inside McDonald’s Sustainability Journey,” scheduled for publication in January 2018.  

Bob Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:

  • Lessons learned from decades of experience in corporate sustainability

  • Supply chain sustainability in large corporations

  • Working with NGO's - The good, the bad and the ugly

  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability leaders

Bob Langert Final Five Responses:

What is one piece of advice you would give other sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?

I noticed a lot of great leadership traits in my years of working with suppliers, working with great McDonalds leaders that made changes and with NGO leaders. You have to have courage because when making change you may have to face a lot of pain and grief. Having conviction. I look at Paul Polman from Unilever. It just kind of comes through in a very magical sense, positive sense of cleverness. And you have to be innovative. Never look at the situation in a standard way of being contrary. Being a sustainability leader, I found myself always in a position where everything I was trying to advocate was against the status quo. 

And this often means, oh, you're against. No, that's not what I mean. You need to know how to be contrary in a positive way. Have to be collaborative, and that means listening and really being open to change and adaptation. And the last one is charisma. You don't have to have this magnetic, you know, slapping the back personality. But I think the ability to attract attention and gain trust is what I think is charismatic. You can write those down and then try to figure out how you could develop the plan for yourself to advance all of those in your leadership.

What are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability?

I love the big goals that are being set by so many companies. Big goals on climate change and deforestation. When I left McDonald's, that's what's thrilled me the most. We set a goal at McDonald's that we're going to start buying sustainable beef by the year 2016. We didn't even know the definition of sustainable beef when we set that goal. That excites me to see a company's taking a big bold goal and leadership. It's not coming through government so companies are doing a great job and on a great track.

What is one book you would recommend sustainability professionals read?

The book I'm going to recommend reminds me of when I talked to Jim Cantalupo. He turned the company around as CEO from the early nineties. I asked him after a year or two on the job, I said "Jim, what's the biggest aha in your leadership as CEO of McDonald's?" He said, " I can't believe 99% of my job is communication." Once you develop a strategy, it's how you communicate. My answer is this great book on communication called Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath published about 10 years ago. It was my bible. He's got a formula for success in communicating. Sustainability professionals all need to look at this book or the principles of it. 

What are some of your favorite resources or tools that help you in the work that you do?

I'm a big fan of the GreenBiz community. The GreenBiz daily feeds and their website are the best daily news you can get. They have a group called the GreenBiz Executive Network. I found that to be the greatest tool around. Three times a year I get to be with 25 leaders from other companies who's going through the same struggles that I'm going through. Commiserating with them and understanding what they're going through and how they're solving problems was the best tool that I ever had.

Where can our listeners go to learn more about you and your work or follow you online?

The best place is go Look for Bob Langert. Look for my articles there. In the future, I'll be having a website within a month or two. Look me up for the Battle to Do Good that I talked about earlier and people that are interested in getting on the list to learn more about that book.