Clif Bars: Socially Responsible

by Heidi Andrianos

Part of an ongoing series about interesting,  food companies.

What the company does: Clif Bar is a family and employee owned company that crafts nutritious and organic snacks, including the CLIF Bar® energy bar, the CLIF Kid® bar, and the LUNA® Whole Nutrition Bar.

How is the company socially responsible?

A Responsible and Sustainable Business Model

Clif Bar credits its sustained success to its pioneering Five Aspirations Business Model, a way of doing business that doesn’t just focus on one bottom line. Instead, Clif Bar focuses on five bottom lines: sustaining its business, brands, people, planet and community. In the process, the company has:

  • Led the way as the first organic energy bar provider and largest private funder of organic research in the U.S., purchasing more than 1 billion pounds of organic ingredients to-date
  • Transitioned to 100 percent renewable electricity sourced through solar and wind energy credits for all Clif facilities
  • Made all employees eligible to become owners through an Employee Stock Ownership Program and offered a living wage at its bakeries
  • Volunteered 137,416 company hours to community service
  • Donated $49 million in cash and $35 million in food to those in need

Crafted with Purpose

Clif Bar & Company crafts its food for people and the planet by prioritizing organic, plant-based ingredients and sustainable standards to create wholesome, energizing foods. Although the original CLIF Bar was created with athletes in mind, today the company makes delicious and nutritious foods for a wide range of occasions, whether you’re running a marathon or a family.

Prioritizing the Planet

Protecting the environment has always been a part of Clif’s approach to crafting food and running its business. The company is on a journey to create a net positive impact from field to final product. That starts with their commitment to organic ingredients, which Clif believes are better for people, easier on the planet, and return more value to those who grow and make our food. In 2018, 76 percent of all ingredients they purchased were organic. Clif Bar is the largest private funder of organic research in the U.S, emphasizing their long-term commitment to organic agriculture. The company is also focused on zero waste, sustainable packaging, resource conservation and green building-design.

Climate Action

Clif is dedicated to fighting climate change, starting with a commitment to running their own offices and bakeries on renewable energy and driving green power deeper into their supply chain with the “50/50 by 2020” initiative, which helps their suppliers transition to green power for the electricity they use to make their products. To date, 44 supplier facilities have made the transition, taking advantage of the free expert consulting offered by Clif. They have also partnered with advocacy groups such as Ceres, American Forests, and Protect Our Winters to help build the climate movement.

Taking Care of their Employees 

Clif Bar goes the extra mile for their employees by providing them with the following benefits:

  • An option to work a flexible work week as an encouragement to participate in volunteer opportunities during the workday
  • An onsite fitness center
  • Personal trainers and concierge services such as haircuts and organic produce delivery
  • Sabbatical programs
  • On-site childcare services

The company also uses the Cool Route Program as a way to encourage their employees to commute in an environmentally friendly way. Incentives include:

  • $500 toward the purchase of a commuter bike or a bike trailer for their child or dog
  • Up to $1,500 a year in cash or rewards for eliminating cars from their commutes by walking, biking, using public transit or carpooling
  • $6,500 to help them buy an all-electric or fuel-efficient hybrid car

In 2010, the company implemented an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), a trust that holds shares of the company’s stock for employees. The company funds the ESOP at no cost to its workers. Employees receive shares for every year they remain at Clif Bar, and the shares grow in value so long as the company is also growing in value. 

Company Origin: During a 175-mile bike ride in 1990, Clif founder Gary Erickson realized that he couldn’t stomach the sticky, unappetizing energy bars he had packed for himself and resolved to start making his own. After trying out various recipes along with his mother – the best baker her knew – over the course of a few months, he officially launched CLIF Bars in 1992. 

Latest “socially responsible” project: In February 2019, the company launched the Clif Ag Fund, an investment fund dedicated to supporting organic farmers in their supply chain. The fund’s first investment is dedicated to providing on-farm wind turbines for up to 80 farms. 

Any additional notable projects or products: Every year Clif publishes their “All Aspirations Report,” which recaps the company’s most recent projects and progress. Read the 2018 report here.

Where to buy: Sports specialty, natural food, grocery, drug, convenience, club, and online stores.

Fact Sheet and Details 

  • Founding Location: Emeryville, CA 
  • Date founded: 1992 
  • Main office: Emeryville, CA
  • Core products: CLIF® BAR energy bar; LUNA®, The Whole Nutrition Bar for Women®; CLIF Kid®
  • Areas served: International 
  • Founder: Gary Erickson 
  • CEO: Kevin Cleary, CEO 
  • Website:
  • Phone: 1-800-254-3227
  • Address: 1451 66th Street Emeryville, CA 

Social Media:

Interesting Stories About Clif Bars:

Sources: Clif Bar Official Website 

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