CEO Dialogue, Michael McCain – December 2020

Michael McCain is President and Chief Executive Officer of Maple Leaf Foods, one of Canada’s flagship food companies, with sales of $3.9 billion and employing approximately 13,000 people in Canada and the United States. Michael and his team are deeply committed to being the global leader in sustainable proteins, reflected in ambitious goals in the advancement of nutrition, reducing antibiotic use in livestock, animal care, environmental sustainability, and enhancing food security nationally and globally.

On December 7, Michael spoke to the OG100 membership about Maple Leaf Foods’ (MLF) history of embracing disruption and prioritizing shared value in all they do.

The need to embrace change has affected every business in every industry in 2020. Michael spoke to the strategies and strengths his team relies on when faced with disruption.

Michael runs a granular, detail-oriented organization with disciplined and rigorous managerial rhythms, that are supported by an excellent financial system. A capable and driven leadership team keeps him engaged and informed. These processes and systems allow the team and Michael to keep their pulse on plant specific performance and daily sales numbers. And while the management team was able to shift and work remotely during the pandemic, providing leadership can be challenging. The ability to give and receive energy over remote work platforms is not the same, and as a leader you need to be able to adapt to ensure you are giving your team what they need. Michael predicts the office will be forever changed because of COVID-19 – with the office shifting from primarily work, to a place of gathering.

Throughout Maple Leaf Food’s long history, the company has adapted for the customer’s evolving palette – particularly relevant in the protein industry today. Evolving and adapting can require leadership to disrupt the company from within,
throwing out the classic playbook, and replacing it with a new playbook – one better suited for future trends and growth.

One year after achieving carbon neutrality, Maple Leaf Foods ranked second globally in the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index, the world’s only comprehensive sustainability ranking of the 60 largest publicly traded animal protein producers. Throughout Michael’s discussion, he often referenced how the MLF culture and strategy are rooted in its purposeful journey to becoming the most sustainable protein company on earth.

Many Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) programs are founded on reputation and risk management, and MLF’s approach is different. From the food MLF produces, to its commitment to improving animal welfare, to the work it supports in lowering food insecurity, each element drives towards shared value, which is ultimately the foundation of a sustainable business.

Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or sustainability, but a new way for companies to create value for all stakeholders. And while not based on shareholder value primacy, it has served the business well. Consumers want products they can feel good about, from committed companies that are determined to solve societal issues. MLF aims to be that company now and into the future.