Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Dave Armon headshot

The Latest in Sustainability Communications Tactics Revealed

For those working in corporate responsibility, knowing when and how to announce news is critical. To that end, we talked to Bob Langert, who retired in 2016 following more than 30 years with McDonald’s, a tenure that included a role as the company's VP of CSR and sustainability. 

In the spirit of CES in Las Vegas, the Detroit auto show and New York Fashion Week, sustainability communicators love to harness the energy of live events to announce big news.

For example, last fall at our 3BL Forum: Brands Taking Stands event, Smithfield Foods launched an ambitious manure-to-energy project to lower its emissions. The initiative scored strong pickup across the trade press and business media. 

And last week during GreenBiz (held at Arizona State University, pictured above), sustainability communicators were hard at work, launching no fewer than four products, projects and partnerships:

  • 3Degrees and Etsy unveiled a plan for the e-commerce company to offset 100 percent of its shipping emissions.
  • SC Johnson revealed the company will produce the containers for its Windex Vinegar cleaning product with ocean plastics from Haiti, Indonesia and the Philippines.
  • General Motors heralded a partnership with DTE Energy to source enough wind energy to power 100 percent of the electricity needs of GM’s global technical center in Warren, Michigan, and its Detroit-based operations at the Renaissance Center.
  • Iron Mountain introduced a green data center program that allows colocation customers to report on their use of solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

For those working in corporate responsibility and sustainability, knowing when and how to announce news is critical. Those who do the work, but don’t share their successes, may be squandering the goodwill the comes from employees, customers, investors and other key stakeholders receiving status updates.

One veteran practitioner, Bob Langert, retired in 2016 following more than 30 years with McDonald’s, where he was vice president of CSR and sustainability. 

“No company’s really figured out the formula to do this. Everyone’s still afraid to toot their own horn,” Langert told TriplePundit in a recent video interview.  “No company’s perfect. I think that the legal people run this thing too much because they want to minimize risk.”

“I do think the marketers and communicators have a great opportunity to leverage this (sustainability) part as part of the brand and reputation,” Langert continued. “If I had to start my career over, that might be an area that I’d spend more time on.”

In a new book, The Battle To Do Good: Inside McDonald’s Sustainability Journey, Langert details his communications strategies and offers an insider’s perspective on when to partner with foes rather than going to war.  Watch the full interview here.

With partnerships under his belt including World Wildlife Fund for more responsible beef, Conservation International for sustainable fish and livestock behavior expert Temple Grandin for animal welfare, Langert’s perspective is valuable not only when it comes to how companies can accelerate corporate sustainability efforts, but nimbly communicate them as well.

Image credit: Arizona State University

Dave Armon headshotDave Armon

Dave Armon is the Chief Executive Officer of 3BL Media, which produces the 3BL Forum and ranks the 100 Best Corporate Citizens. A former journalist, Dave spent 20 years in management at PR Newswire, where he was president and COO.  

Read more stories by Dave Armon

More stories from Leadership & Transparency