The chief architect of McDonald’s sustainability project says it’s driven by consumers not by activists.
“Sustainability is part of growing our business and your business,” Bob Langert told cattlemen attending Kansas State University’s Annual Cattlemen’s Day in Manhattan, Kan. “It’s the biggest trend (for food companies) over the last seven years.”
Formerly the Vice President of sustainability for McDonald’s (he retired February 28 after 32 years with the company), Langert described how the global fast food giant works to keep 70 million customers happy each day.
“Sustainability is not a choice – it’s here,” he said.
McDonald’s views sustainability as having three components – social, environmental and economic. “And we can’t shortchange the economic aspect of it.”
Last year McDonald’s announced it would start sourcing “verified sustainable beef” from some country beginning in 2016. Last week McDonald’s Canadian sustainability manager Jeffrey Fitzpatrick-Stilwell told attendees at the Alberta Beef Industry Conference that country is Canada, though Langert told cattlemen in Kansas they should not read too much into that selection.
“We didn’t create sustainable beef on a whim,” Langert said. “Beef is who we are.” He said the company seeks to make beef “more relevant and modern to consumers.”
In developing its sustainable beef initiative, Langert said McDonald’s seeks to make beef “more attractive. People want to eat food that they feel good about.”
Those consumers, Langert said, feel good about beef when they know “where it comes from and how it’s sourced. The values consumers have are important to us.”
McDonald’s goals moving forward are to build consumer trust, and their advertising is meant to “define who we are as a brand and what we stand for.” Langert said the company’s sustainability framework consists of five components: food, sourcing, people, planet and community.
As the largest buyer of Canadian beef, McDonald’s sustainable beef pilot project will use a set of 40 ‘indicators’ to assess sustainability, and the company has created a scoring system to grade ranches, feedlots and other stakeholders in the beef chain. The company also picked an American verification company - Colorado-based Where Food Comes From, Inc.
Fitzpatrick-Stilwell told cattlemen in Alberta, “This is not a certification regime — this is a verification opportunity. It’s about information sharing, not policing. It’s about producers demonstrating how they meet the criteria. It’s not an audit and it’s not pass/fail.”
Langert assured cattlemen that “we don’t want to raise animals. We have a shared commitment and we value the whole supply chain.”
Sustainability, however, will become an integral part of McDonald’s future. In addition to sourcing a portion of their beef deemed sustainable next year, by 2020 the company plans to source all of their coffee, palm oil, fish and packaging sustainably.