Greyston Bakery

“We don’t hire people to bake brownies. We bake brownies to hire people.”

Wednesday 3 June 2009, by Bhavna Lalwani

8 inspired

Main facts

Greyston Bakery is a for-profit business that was founded in 1982 by a Zen Buddhist meditation group led by Bernard Tetsugen Glassman. The group borrowed $300,000 and opened a small storefront bakery in the Bronx, New York. The original goal — to produce quality, locally made products that would give the group a sustainable, satisfying livelihood — soon inspired a socially responsible business extending opportunity to others. Nowadays, in addition to making the great tasting Do Goodie brownie, Greyston Bakery bakes the brownies for Ben and Jerry’s and Haagen Dazs ice cream has supplied cakes and tarts to the White House. Greyston produces all these products with employees who had been chronically unemployed. It is committed to giving people opportunities, people who may be homeless or drug addicts

Its unique community development approach is based on “PathMaking," an idea developed from two key Buddhist concepts: mandala (wholeness) and path (transformation). Its choice of nontraditional labor pool helps people getting off the streets and into the workforce. Currently, the bakery employs 180 people and annually generates more than $10 million in revenues.

Ethical Challenges

Greyston Bakery is a unique model of its kind, as it is a for-profit business which “takes less and gives more”. It is totally committed to society and community development, which is reflected by their hiring system: Greyston hires hard-to-employ and chronically unemployed people. Anyone can join Greyston regardless of their background and previous experience; therefore it is a real non-discriminative and open-hiring system. Apart from hiring these kinds of people, Greyston offers them a path of self-sufficiency by providing their employees with training, mentoring and promotion within the company.

All the profits of the company contribute to the work of Greyston Foundation, an integrated network of for-profit and non for-profit entities which aims to support community development, providing jobs, low-income housing, day-care and HIV medical centres, child-care, after school programs, etc.

Moreover, Greyston is a clear example of an environmental sustainable business as it was selected as a Top Ten Green Project in 2004 for their use of natural light, rooftop gardens, efficient machinery, and the use of outdoor air to cool baked goods.

Why do we trust Greyston Bakery?

Trust is the crux of that kind of business. This needs to be taken in account while setting up a business in which customers buy the product not only because of their quality but also because they want to help others.

Greyston Bakery has had this statement in mind since their foundation. They started establishing some guiding principles, such as “The bakery will maintain an open-hiring policy” or “The bakery will rigorously measure, document, and monitor its progress towards all non-financial goals.” What’s more, their actual president, Julius Walls, brought his experience as a professor of social enterprise and Social Justice&Business, with a vast experience on these topics.

Furthermore, they had achieved some certifications which involve fairness (TransFair USA), organic (Oregon Tilth Certified Organic) and cooperation (B Corporation). Another striking characteristic is that they have close professional relationships with organizations such as “Helping Hand Rewards”, “Seventh Generation”, “Social Venture Network”, “Social Enterprise Network” and “The City of Yonkers”.

Future challenges and improvements

This business in itself is a big challege for the future. The question we ask ourselves is: how to go to the next level in their business operations and in their human services? The point is that they should focus where the gaps are and where they can develop collaborations.

What Greyston really needs to achieve is a living wage for their employees. What they receive now, is a fair wage that it isn’t enough for living. How can they achieve it? Making more profit, growing up their dimension.

The company could expand geographically to different countries (as currently it only operates in the USA) with the aim of increasing the demand of their products and also increasing their offer of employment. This way, many more people who are considered to be ‘chronically unemployed’ would get the chance to get a paid job at Greyston Bakery. Another way to increase the offer of employment could be the creation of Greyston’s own retail shops and bakeries. Moreover, Greyston could expand their business by distributing their products in supermarkets and other retail shops, which would lead to an important business expansion and probably a growth in their revenues.

Book: L. Goméz-Mejía, D. Balkin, R. Cardy: Managing Human Resources (5th ed.), Prentice Hall, 2007. Pages 160-161

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1 Discussion / 1 Message

  • Greyston Bakery 5 October 2012 at 09:26 , by Ivy Wang

    Student Name: Wang Wei
    Student No.:1121209263

    Greyston Bakery sounds like a kind of welfare corporations in china which hire the disables in china. They pay more attention on the society responsibility rather than profits. I think the idea is a good and we should run more firms like this to resolve the employment problem for the vulnerable groups.
    BUT, as I know in china, if the enterprises hire the disable people, they can get some compensation from the government. I don’t know if it’s the same in Greyston Bakery? If the answer is yes, I’ll doubt Greyston Bakery’s motivation.
    Besides, how can we define the chronically unemployed people? The people have no work over 3 months or 2 years? That is ambiguous and the author hadn’t mention in the article. If I cannot figure out these questions, I may consider that is just a marketing strategy for their products.

Location: New York (United States of America, Bronx)

Sector: baked goods, ice cream mix-ins, brownies and cakes

Official website:

Key figures:

Company type: Private – Main headquarters
Annual Revenue: $14-million
Annual Profit: $7,927,638
Number of Employees: 180
Countries of operations: USA

Nbr. visits: 2839

Nbr. inspires: 8