The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Sustainability Series: Clif Bar

Sustainability Series: Clif Bar


January 29, 2012

Clif Bar & Company is a leading maker of nutritious and organic food and drinks for people on-the-go. Founded in 1992 with the creation of their flagship product – the CLIF Bar – the company also makes LUNA Bars (a bar marketed toward women), snacks for kids, energy chews and gels, and energy drinks. We talked to Elysa Hammond, Clif Bar’s Director of Environmental Stewardship, about the company’s unique and focused approach to sustainability, and their commitment to organic living.

How does your business define sustainability?

At Clif Bar we refer to our sustainability approach as our Five Aspirations: Sustaining our Business, Brands, People, Community and the Planet. These five bottom lines enable us to consider significant decisions from a variety of different perspectives including our commitment to environmental and social sustainability. 

Our journey toward sustainability starts with food. Our mission is to create food that is good for the body, good for the planet, and good for the people who grow and make our products. We see this work as part of a larger movement to help create a healthier, just and sustainable food system. For us that means working to reduce our ecological footprint in everything we do from the field to the final product.
How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business?

We focus our efforts around four specific areas: sustainable food and agriculture; zero waste; climate and energy; and natural resource conservation. In support of these goals, here are just a few examples of the things we are doing:

  • We use organic ingredients in all of our products and 70 percent of all the ingredients we purchase are certified organic.
  • Through the Clif Bar Family Foundation we have committed $1 million to Seed Matters, the Foundation’s initiative to conserve genetic diversity; promote farmers’ roles and rights as seed innovators; and reinvigorate public seed research and education.
  • We track and offset the CO2 emissions generated by our business including bakeries, office and business travel; and in 2007, we offset our historical climate footprint back to 1992.
  • We’ve installed a “smart” solar array providing our headquarters with nearly all of its electricity. We also have solar thermal panels, which provide us with 70 percent of our hot water.
  • Our office and marketing vehicles run on biodiesel. Biodiesel is used for part of our intercompany shipping and we have increased our use of rail.

What are your short term and long term goals?

In 2012 Clif Bar & Company celebrates its 20th anniversary. As we look back on the past 20 years with appreciation and gratitude, we are also looking for ways to carry our commitment to sustainability forward into the future.
As with other business objectives, we establish annual goals and measure our progress against those goals at the close of each year. We have also established several ambitious five-year goals. By 2015, we will:

  • Increase our purchase of USDA organic and certified-sustainable ingredients to 80 percent of everything we buy.
  • Achieve Zero Waste (defined as 90 percent or more solid waste diversion) in our office, field and manufacturing sites.
  • Reduce our carbon footprint to 10 percent below 2009 levels on normalized basis.

Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?

As a food company, one of the most immediate and significant ways we have been able reduce our impact on the planet has been through the purchase of organic ingredients. Organic foods are grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, artificial hormones or genetic engineering. Additionally, organic farming restores soil fertility, reduces soil erosion and helps protect the health of our air, water, and wildlife while protecting biodiversity. To date, we have purchased over 230 million pounds of organic ingredients.
How do you measure your progress?

We are tracking progress against our five-year goals and we track the increasing integration of sustainability practices in departments across the company. Additionally, through our annual sustainability survey we are tracking the increasing participation of supply chain partners in adopting sustainability practices. 

How do retailers factor into your efforts?

We view our retailers as key partners in our efforts and in our consumer outreach. Working with retailers we’ve been able to launch mutually beneficial sustainability initiatives that reduce waste and improve the retail performance of our brands in store. One example is our universal shipper. Unlike most shippers, which need to be scrapped every year or as brand imagery changes, these attractive and versatile displays can be used year-after-year with any of our Clif Bar & Company products – making them easier for retailers to use in store. From a production and materials standpoint, these shippers are produced with 90 percent solar power and can be produced in small batches if necessary. Also, instead of making, shipping, and storing seven different types of shippers, we only need to produce one. In addition to these in-store efforts, we’ve found growing interest among our retail partners in our sustainability efforts and in our Foundation efforts, including climate action, work in sustainable food systems, and Seed Matters.
Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?

Food and farming have a significant impact on the environment in terms of climate disruption, water use and pollution, and loss of biodiversity. In the U.S. alone, it has been estimated that approximately 19 percent of all energy use can be attributed to food production (7 percent of U.S. energy use occurring on the farm and 12 percent being used to process, package, transport, store and prepare food)*. At the same time, consumers are seeking food that is not only healthy, but also grown and produced using sustainable practices. As such the food industry has an exciting opportunity to become leaders in creating solutions to these problems. For instance, organic is now the fastest growing sector of the food industry. Additionally, sustainable business practices are helping companies in the food industry identify opportunities for greater efficiency and cost savings in their supply chains. 
Why are sustainable business practices important to the consumer?

More and more, consumers are looking for ways to protect their families’ health through the foods and products they buy. Consumers also want to reduce their impact on the planet. One of the most direct ways for them to do this is through the products they purchase.

In upcoming issues, we will feature interviews with food companies that are making strides in their sustainability efforts. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing to get involved please contact Allison Bloom

*Pimentel, David, Reducing Energy Inputs in the Agricultural Production System, The Monthly <> Last Accessed: December 12, 2011