20 Years of Sustainability Leadership

On Earth Day 2001, we launched our sustainability program with a focus on organic farming, climate action, and employee and supply chain engagement. Over the years, this work has led to dozens of milestone achievements including:

Q&A with Elysa Hammond, the ecologist who developed our environmental stewardship program

(and is now our first-ever Executive Fellow for Regenerative Business and Climate Solutions):

What do you mean by “grow a business that thinks like a tree”?

Trees run on renewable energy, recycle all waste, and sustain and improve the places they grow—they model regenerative systems.

Clif people have embraced this idea and run with it. Dale Ducommun, who leads our bakeries, said, “To me, think like a tree means I need to send our employees home better than they came in.” He also employs sheep as lawnmowers, built owl nests and hawk roosts onsite, and is part of the Twin Falls pollinator council.

How do you measure Clif’s impact?

When Gary and Kit hired me, Gary said, “We’ll know we’re succeeding if we influence other companies.” In 2018, we built a five-acre solar array + pollinator habitat in Idaho that generates 2 megawatts of renewable energy. More importantly, it’s inspiring other companies to do the same. One of the country’s largest banks has already built 80 megawatts of solar + pollinator projects. That’s 40 times more pollinator habitat than our Idaho array while also generating clean energy! And hopefully it’s just the start.

In 2011, we launched the nation’s first-ever graduate fellowships in organic plant breeding, Seed Matters, through the Clif Family Foundation. Our four—soon to be five—endowed university chairs in organic research ensure support for regenerative farming in perpetuity. Collectively, these programs add up to change at scale. Since 2018, Clif has been the nation’s #1 private funder of organic research.

How do Clif’s Five Aspirations support a regenerative business?

A regenerative business works to create a net positive impact—to give more than it takes. At Clif, regenerative practices come to life through our Five Aspirations.

Our brands support organic farming systems that restore soil health and biodiversity and avoid the use of toxic chemicals made from fossil fuels. That’s regenerative. We want Clif to last for generations, and our business vision is set on long-term success. That’s regenerative. Practices that restore living systems are regenerative. At Clif Bar, it means we build on the pillars of employee well-being, responsible supply chains, climate justice, and protecting and restoring our natural resources.

Key takeaways?

You only need to remember three things: Conversations create change. Five bottom lines. Think like a tree.

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