Clif Bar is proving that corporate social responsibility wins customers. They are growing at a 17% annual compounded growth rate. That is exceptional in an economy struggling to achieve 3% growth. Further so, they are achieving 17% compounded annual growth by running their business to achieve five aspirations for profits, brand, people, community and the environment.
Corporate social responsibility is not a business function like finance or operations at Clif Bar. Being purposeful is at the core of who they are and how they measure performance. It is their secret sauce for winning customers in the highly competitive food market segment.
Clif Bar links purpose and business growth
Today’s business environment can be characterized as a race to the bottom on price. In this business model people and products are commodities. Only high volume, low cost competitors win.
But money is not the sole consumer issue. Market research documents that consumers seek purpose and values in what they buy and who they buy from. Here are three examples of how the consumer search for purpose is reshaping our economy and creating business opportunities:
- Our national weight crisis is very real to moms and millennials. These key consumers are searching for foods that taste good, are affordable and have authentic health benefits.
- The vast majority of Americans believe global warming is real and manmade. Americans seek to buy from businesses that are part of the solution and not part of the problem. This trend has resulted in renewable energy now representing 50% or more of our new power generating capacity. Voters support growth of renewable energy over the growth of fossil energy by a four to one margin.
- How a business treats their customers, work associates and the disadvantaged are a major consumer concern. Consumers do not want to buy sea food caught by slave labor. They do not want to buy clothes made by child labor. The millennial generation, the most diverse in U.S. history, will not tolerate a company that discriminates.
Clif Bar demonstrates the business case that a company can achieve superior financial results by meeting these types of consumer expectations. Clif Bar is not alone in demonstrating that purposefulness sells. Many of our volume retailers are now Green Giants selling over a billion dollars annually of green products. For example, Costco is now the largest organic food retailer selling $4 billion annually. Target’s Made to Matter product line generates $1 billion annually and Walmart’s products that satisfy their Sustainability Index now generate $1.5 billion in annual sales.
Clif Bar’s CEO Kevin Cleary on how to be purposeful and profitable
Here’s how Clif Bar’s CEO Kevin Cleary explains the company’s success:
“Our culture is our competitive advantage!”
Cleary defines culture as how people work together. His anchoring leadership goal is to connect people to what matters. Connecting people to what matters drives product design. It drives the design of the work environment. It exemplifies their brand equity. Ultimately it is the link between the company’s purpose and profits.
You see this in Cleary’s execution of Clif Bar’s five aspirations. Under his leadership Clif Bar built one of our country’s first Leed Platinum corporate headquarters. This building aligns with the company’s environmental aspiration. But it is also is an example of Cleary’s leadership to embrace best practices like Biophilic Design that improves work associate productivity. Under Cleary’s leadership Clif Bar has doubled its business size. But this business result was achieved while only increasing the number of work associates by about 50%.
Cleary and his team also use the company’s five aspirations in determining how to invest in the business. The company just launched their first bakery. That was a $90 million investment. They did not qualify potential locations in the traditional economic development process that is heavily focused on least cost. They applied all five aspirations of business, brand, people, community and environment in assessing where to locate. On that basis they choose Twin Falls Idaho. Tellingly this town’s motto is “people serving people.” Doesn’t that sound like Clif Bar! And of course, they built their bakery using Biophilic Design to make sure their work associates stayed connected to the beauty of Twin Falls while on the job.
If your business is in search of double digit growth then this video interview with Clif Bar’s CEO Kevin Cleary conducted at Sustainable Brands 2016 is a must watch. In it Cleary talks to how he is growing the business. He explains in more detail how the company is realizing increased worker productivity. He shares how the company’s supply chain has engaged in collaborative learning to lower costs and emissions. Most importantly, Cleary outlines how Clif Bar has successfully linked purpose and profits.
About the author
Bill Roth is a clean tech pioneer who led the team that launched the first hydrogen fueled Prius. He is a featured contributor on Triple Pundit and Latin Business Today. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, has been used by thousands of business people to implement proven green best practices that make money and a difference. Bill’s latest book, The Boomer Generation Diet, is his personal story on how to achieve sustained weight loss while still having fun and living more. The book’s ten customizable best practices are the sustainable solutions to our national weight crisis that threatens our health and medical cost bankruptcy.