Clif Bars

Feed Your Adventure

Sunday 5 June 2016, by Nicholas Tay

1 inspired

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

A. Who Are They?
Clif Bar began with a man on a bike, no longer satisfied with the state of nutrition bars available for athletes. He wanted a better tasting bar, he went to his mother’s kitchen and got to work making it; that was 1990. Clif Bar was born and spent the next decade expanding in popularity amongst outdoor enthusiasts, particularly climbers and cyclists, and developing a sense of itself, not merely as a company that sells food, but as a force for good in the world.
A challenge came to this idea in 2001 when Clif Bar chose to remain independent from its large competitors craving its growing sales and private, to avoid the pressures that lead public companies to succumb to the pressures of larger competitors. Clif Bar redoubled its focus on using organic ingredients and promoting a form of corporate social responsibility that centered on five objectives: sustaining their Business, Brands, People, Community, and the Planet. In accordance with those values the Clif Bar’s headquarters received a LEED Platinum Certification – the highest award for building sustainability. Clif Bar also supports its employees and has been awarded by multiple organizations as leading environment for employees to work in.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

B. Addressing the related ethical issues
One of the greatest challenges facing Clif Bar is the sourcing of its ingredients to produce quality yet affordable food. The greatest example of this occurred in December 2014, when Clif Bar announced that it sourced some of its cocoa beans from areas of West Africa where human rights abuse is typical in their production. After years of pressure Clif Bar was not afraid to face their shortcomings and seek to resolve the issues inherent in production of cocoa in the West African region. They have since been certified by the Rainforest Alliance as sourcing 100% of their cocoa from ethical operations around the globe.
The Rainforest Alliance only certifies ethically consistent producers and Clif Bar has benefited from this switch in more than just a moral sense. A third party study of Rainforest Alliance farmers found they produced 58% more output and multiples of the normal net income for local farmers. Clif Bar continues to improve its supply chain and source more and more of its almost entirely organic ingredients from ethical sources in accordance with their objectives of sustainability. They are currently focused on palm oil production (another major ingredient in Clif Bars) which can have harmful effects on the environment during production: deforestation, poor labor treatment: usual problems in developing countries. Clif Bar has decided again to work with Rainforest Alliance to find ethical and environmental producers of palm oil.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

C. Why we believe they are really ethical
As evidenced from the LEED, Rainforest Alliance, World Cocoa Alliance, and many other awards and certifications Clif Bar are actually committed to their community and their planet, which are increasingly one and the same. In a world where companies perform only the cursory trappings of corporate social responsibility Clif Bar stands out for their depth and breadth of involvement. Without mentioning the employee benefits, including paid time out of work for social volunteering and employee stock ownership programs, Clif Bar’s engagement in addressing the ethical issues of the supply side of the food industry alone is laudable. The decision to stay private and remain a sort of family business, where family refers not only to the founders Gary and Kit but to the community built around Clif Bar and its ideals, is indicative of the attitude of the company as a whole.
On 5th December 2014, Clif Bars disclosed its origins of cocoa and this was a huge move because the world’s leading cocoa companies such as Nestle have long been silent on making a statement with regards to cocoa origins. They are not out to make stock-holders rich, they are seeking to make the world a better place and the willingness to not only admit, but correct their shortcomings, speaks volumes more than could possibly be written about the trustworthiness of Clif Bar and its commitment to its ideals.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

D. What’s next? The challenges ahead and the need for constant improvement
One of the greatest challenges facing Clif Bar going forward is staying committed to progress. The increase from unethical child labor to ethical treatment of workers in the cocoa fields is far less costly than the increase from ethical to good treatment of workers. In addition, the cost of cocoa production is increasing with aging trees and limited supply. Also, 30-40% of cocoa crops are destroyed by pests. The underlying question would be whether Clif Bars can stay true to their promise and simultaneously handle their profit margins with the increasing costs? There is also increasing demand for cocoa (estimated increase of 30% by 2020) and this would mean that more companies would have to work together on improving ethical farming methods for Clif Bar alone would not be able to withstand both pressure from demand and increasing supply costs.

Thus, Clif Bar must continue to see progress towards development in those countries where it supplies its cheap raw ingredients as good progress, even if this reduces their profits in the short run. They must continue to put their morals first and, especially after the founders eventually retire, continue to instill values in their employees across the company. There are few large companies in the style of Clif Bar and they must be willing to deal with the possibility that there may not be for a long time and even if they never surpass Nestle, they must be merely satisfied with making the planet a more sustainable and ethical place to enjoy a Clif Bar.

Location: California (United States)

Sector: Accommodation and food service activities

Official website:

Nbr. visits: 882

Nbr. inspires: 1