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Book Review: The Battle To Do Good: Inside McDonald's Sustainability Journey by Bob Langert


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The Battle To Do Good: Inside Mcdonald’s Sustainability Journey is a book with a mission - to educate other companies and the wider public on how it is possible to establish environmentally friendly production methods using tried and tested examples.

With Youth Climate Strikes headlining newspapers all across the world this past few weeks, now is clearly an important moment for our discussions on climate change and our progress in creating a sustainable planet for all. Appropriately, I have been reading Bob Langert’s The Battle To Do Good which is all about how one of the biggest corporations in the world (those infamous Golden Arches) began and continues on its journey to do both well as a company and in lessening its environmental impact.

Part autobiography, part do it yourself guide, this short volume is certainly a vitally important one when approaching the topic of climate change in the work place. Bob Langert himself is a fascinating figure, beginning by stating that everything shared from behind the scenes at McDonalds is made available with the key aim of assisting others in their ventures to ‘do good’.

Langert was an innovative figure in the Mcdonald’s journey to set out its key aims and goals; stating clearly what they stood for as an organisation. In 2010, Langert made it his mission to renovate and move away from the ‘Ronald McToxic’ image established in the 1990’s and promote instead a business model designed not only for economic success, but also one built to adapt to relevant social issues. Entering in myself with expectations of there being little to rival problems often associated with the company such as obesity, I was surprised by what I learned. Certainly seeming reliable, this is an immensely well argued collection of activity over the past decade.

Particularly refreshing about this volume is the brutal honesty about business. Langert admits his frustration at certain parts throughout his journey, and in no way promotes the idea that McDonalds is or was ever completely innocent in generating such a toxic image. Instead what he showcases is that even those businesses in a most difficult position have two options: to learn from their mistakes and change for the better, or give up.

Bob Langert

His enthusiasm for change, for providing detailed statistics about all from the high cost of cutting back on dangerous quantities of polystyrene to investing in supplies only from sustainable sources, is massively refreshing. For Langert, whilst business was clearly a big part of his work, it is the impact upon the families who eat at McDonalds and the world in which it exists that drove him the most in his mission. This became more and more apparent whilst reading, because why else with this much honesty would Langert share failure and success in equal measure for other companies to replicate with such a prominent companies name on the cover.

One of my favourite features were the 'Hard Knock Nuggets', located at the end of each of the many short chapters covering subjects such as ‘the battle for better beef’ or ‘the battle for the Amazon Rainforest’. These literal ‘nuggets’ of information broke down the stories and statistics delivered in the main content into easily processable actions/instructions which other companies can use. ‘Taking another page from my learnings’ Langert would often state here, presenting openly an instruction manual to deal with what seem at first glance impossible problems that even Ikea would envy.

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.

It is from books such as these, a thesis statement discussed at length in its trials and errors, that all in our infrastructure of capitalism can begin to evolve and work forward in those conversations about how to make our planet a clean, safe and sustainable one.

Whilst it can be hard reading at times even with the many explanations, if we don’t keep reading and talking about them how can we ever hope to achieve this?

 The Battle To Do Good: Inside Mcdonald’s Sustainability Journey by Bob Langert is published by Emerald Publishing, £16.99.

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