Socially Responsible: Chobani

by Melissa Gallanter, RD

What the company does: 

Chobani, the New York-based Yogurt company stands for more than the food it makes. In 2018, the company introduced its’ most ambitious goal: Make universal wellness happen sooner – for Chobani’s communities and for the planet. This new way of doing business isn’t about checking a box when it comes to “doing good.” Chobani wants to create meaningful impact by practicing sustainable manufacturing, being an active member of the community, and acting as a socially responsible company as well as fostering the growth of small companies within the food industry. 

Founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya created Chobani with an emphasis on people over profits. He believes businesses should take care of their employees, their communities, and their consumers first. Philanthropy and business have never been separate focuses for Chobani; from the start, as Chobani grew, Ulukaya offered jobs to nearby refugees in Central New York and Idaho where the company’s manufacturing plants are located. Throughout Chobani’s history, Ulukaya has challenged standard business practices and reshaped the food industry towards a more globally conscious and people-centered industry.

How the company is socially responsible:

Chobani focuses on social responsibility through what they call The Chobani Way, which elucidates the company’s goal of making “universal wellness happen sooner.” Not only does Chobani strive for health and wellness for the consumer, but The Chobani Way encompasses wellness in a global perspective with their nine “North Star Goals.” They include:

Renewable Energy

Over the next four years, Chobani is committing to reducing energy consumption within their manufacturing operations by another 15 percent. 

According to Chobani’s 2019 Sustainability Report, since 2014, the company has cut its overall energy consumption by 17 percent. 

Water Neutral

Chobani is working to reduce the company’s water consumption by 25 percent by the end of 2022, and ultimately, put as much water back into the company’s local communities as it uses for Chobani’s manufacturing operations. 

Zero Waste to Landfill

By the end of 2022, Chobani is committed to transitioning the company’s plants to be zero waste to landfill facilities. 

Chobani is a member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s How2Recycle labeling program, which helps reduce consumer confusion about how to recycle single-use consumer packaged products with a clear, concise, harmonized label. Other measures on this front: Chobani recycles 100 percent of the whey it produces through the company’s Research & Development team and partners with local businesses and dairy farms. 

Renewable Fuels

Chobani is optimizing its logistics efficiency to cut greenhouse gas emissions and exploring new renewable energy-based technologies for its transportation fleet. 

Chobani has been able to take 2,000 trucks off the road in the past year by improving pallet configurations, transitioning to full truckload orders, and optimizing its routes in order to reduce miles driven. The 2,000 fewer trucks on the road amount to using 460,000 fewer gallons of diesel fuel.

Sustainable Packaging

Chobani is working towards making all of its packaging is either fully recyclable, compostable, biodegradable, or made with recycled content. In its continuing efforts  to do better, they have reduced the weight of their yogurt cups by more than 12 percent in the past four years, saving more than 3.9 million pounds of plastic resin. 

Sustainable Sourcing

Chobani supports progressive programs and practices for sourcing ingredients that have higher environmental and social risks due to where and how they are produced. 

All of the fresh milk used in Chobani’s production is sourced from local dairy farmers in New York and Idaho. Other ingredients used are sourced from around the world and with strategic guidance from the World Wildlife Fund, ensuring Chobani is committed to supporting suppliers who are also committed to sustainability. 

Dairy Worker Wellbeing

Chobani’s Milk Matters program incorporates initiatives to create a system within the dairy industry that provides support to dairy cooperatives, farmers, and farm workers. 

The program supports positive change across the many aspects of dairy farming – from cow to people to planet – including working with Fair Trade USA to develop the industry’s first-ever worker wellbeing certification. 

Inclusion and Diversity

Chobani is committed to equal representation, respect, and recognition for diverse employees at Chobani, and fostering a spirit of inclusivity for all. 

Over the last year, Chobani has conducted unconscious bias training for all employees and added  programming that includes educational events held during Black History Month, Pride Month, and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, as well as mentorship groups for women who work at Chobani. 

Strengthening Rural Communities

Chobani has many business, philanthropy, and development initiatives in place to support rural communities, especially those it calls home. 

In 2018, Chobani employees collectively volunteered more than 4,500 hours through Chobani-sponsored community events, and more than 325,000 cups of yogurt were donated to local food banks and community partners. 

In addition to its North Star Goals, the Chobani Incubator was created in 2016 in an effort to spread the company’s mission of providing better food to more people. Chobani built its Incubator to help “small companies with big hearts and ideas challenge the food industry, improve broken systems, and make a difference.” Each Incubator class is four months long and includes workshops, mentor rotations, field trips, and social events. In addition to a no-string-attached $25,000 grant to help grow the business, the Chobani Incubator aims to fuel a sense of community and mentorship in order to build a more socially responsible food system. 

Company Origin:

Hamdi Ulukaya grew up in a dairy-farming family in Turkey. After moving to New York, Ulukaya was disappointed with the Greek yogurt available in America. Because he believed that everyone deserved more options for nutritious, natural, accessible, and delicious yogurt, Chobani was born. 

In 2005, Ulukaya took out a loan from the Small Business Administration, bought an old yogurt plant in New York, and brought together a group of passionate people to start Chobani with him. The name Chobani, “shepherd” in Turkish, is meant to convey a spirit of dedication and compassion. 

By 2007, the first cup of Chobani Greek Yogurt hit the shelves. By 2011, it had become one of the top three brands of Greek yogurt in the U.S. At that point, Chobani opened a second yogurt factory in Twin Falls, Idaho. And from day one, a portion of proceeds from Chobani went right back into the community. 

Latest “socially responsible” project: 

Milk Matters, Chobani’s comprehensive program supporting the future of dairy, is designed to bring together farmers, farm workers, elected officials, and industry experts and address the most pressing issues facing the industry. The program works to strengthen specific ethics and practices within the dairy industry including:

Environmental Stewardship

Chobani has collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund and the National Milk Producers Federation to reduce their carbon footprint and help farms do the same. With the help of the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Environmental Stewardship module, Chobani’s partners will identify and track greenhouse gas emissions and energy produced by dairy farms in order to identify potential efficiency gains and cost savings for farmers. 

Animal Care

All of the cooperative farms that Chobani sources from are participating in the National Dairy FARM Animal Care program and have completed on-farm evaluations by certified evaluators with on-farm dairy industry experience. By December, all of the farms with whom they do business will comply with the National Milk FARM Program Version 3.0.

Economic Opportunity in Dairy Communities

Chobani partners with community organizations to invest in and expand economic opportunities within the dairy communities where we operate, such as funding multi-year scholarships at Cornell University and the University of Idaho for children of dairy farming families to pursue a degree in dairy science. 

Freedom and Flexibility for Dairy Farmers

In partnership with Cornell’s PRO-DAIRY program and New York State’s Dairy Acceleration Program, Chobani helps farms with fewer than 300 cows receive funding for business projects.

Worker Wellbeing

Chobani is working with Fair Trade USA to develop a first-of-its-kind certification standard for U.S. dairy farms that aims to create a supportive environment for dairy workers that includes  assistance and training programs, wage standards, and support hotlines. 

Local Sourcing

Chobani is a member of the New York State Grown and Certified as well as the Idaho Preferred programs, both of which are dedicated to promoting local food and agricultural products. Local dairy sourcing has always been an important part of Chobani’s mission to support local agricultural communities and ensure fresh products. 

Where to buy: Grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, and more. Use the online store locator to find Chobani near you.


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