We’re committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet and healthy business
A classic example of a sustainability embedded mission statement demonstrating inherent values of a company – Stonyfield Farm, now a part of the Danone Group, is seeing its top leadership change for the first time. Last month Gary Hirshberg – the environmental activist turned businessman, stepped down as the CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm giving way to a handpicked Walt Freese, Ben & Jerry’s former CEO.
Where would the new CE-Yo take Stonyfield? Is he being given a company that is now on autopilot and just needs to steer in a dedicated growth strategy – all the while keeping its core values intact. A tough ask, though – but being an ex-Ben & Jerry, he would “truly understand” ( Ben & Jerry is now a part of Unilever)
Balancing commercialization and values is a fine art and in most cases, commercialization almost always trumps. But that doesn’t mean giving up values – though at times they can become thinly spreaded.
Anita Roddick felt the same when the company she founded, The Body Shop was being sold to L’Oreal. Both were extremes – one ensconsed in values and ethics and the other exploiting the commerical aspect. But Roddick had hoped to rub some of Body Shop’s values onto L’Oreal, which it eventually did (can be argued) – running as an independent brand.
But Stonyfield’s case is a bit different. In spite of getting sold to Danone, Stonyfield still had the same values and the same leadership at the helm – which was not the case in Body Shop (Roddick was ousted from her own company), thus allowing Stonyfield to continue with “ethical growth” and not just “economic growth”.
In a way, both companies have chalked somewhat similar routes – from starting on ethical and activist mindset to building a large profitable businesses – from caring for ecological and social issues to promoting healthy products – and eventually getting acquired by much larger players in the field. Even Ben & Jerry’s has had the same trajectory.
So, the eternal question emerges – Do Sustainable companies have scaling problems? Do they grow to a certain point and stop? To continue to be economically feasible, do they really need a shelter and experience of “bigger companies”?
Patagonia, Seventh Generation, Timberland are some other companies that have had similar beginnings. And they are yet to be acquired – though they would be recieving huge pressure with huge monies from the likes of Nike, Adidas and P&G – but those ‘Value driven’ companies are still keeping their own. It is not to say that big companies are not making their practices sustainable – they are. Nike’s Considered Design, Adidas’s ethical supply chains are great examples – but they do it because of an imperative – as a profitable business model – not because of their inherent value system.
Is it simply a matter of time before they get acquired? Or will we ever see any of those companies to reach scale without any outside support? Is going public the only answer to reach mass audience?
Here’s what I feel are the strengths of these value driven companies:
- They have fierce loyal customers
- These companies don’t compete on price
- They don’t reduce their quality to increase their brand portfolio.
- These companies are very clear on their sustainbility agenda’s with strong leadership commited to it
- They see business as a vehicle to achieve social and ecological good.
- They don’t beleive in bringing out “GRI -G3 A+” reports – instead they completely bare themselves in their “Values Reports” – whatever that may be
Even if these companies get sold-out, it in no way means they are selling-out. They will do so only to expand their “values footprint” and hopefully be the cause of change. The battle between commerialization and values doesn’t have to end in values going out the door to achieve scale. Stonyfield and other renegade companies are there to prove that.
Please share your thoughts below
- Hirshberg: Why I’m Stepping Down (Greenbiz.com)
- Seventh Generation & Corporate Responsibility 2.0
- Green companies – Patagonia
- Green companies – Stonyfield Farm
- Green companies – Interface Global
- 7 Mission Statements that inspire Sustainability
- The effect of the S-word in mission statements of automotive companies
- 9 Essential Principles of building a Sustainable Enterprise (linkingsustainability.com)
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