Triple Bottom Line: Clif Bar & Company

The early 90s saw the birth of a lot of great things, Clif Bar is one of them.

A company based on a passionate obsession with food has got to be interesting. I mean, who doesn’t like to eat? Pair that with an equal preoccupation with making the world a better place and you have Clif Bar & Company.  Using all organic products these crunchy folks in northern California have got the right idea … but is “organic” just a trend they are following to the bank? I think not. Clif takes the extra step and not only uses organic products, but also prohibits ugly things like hydronated oils, trans fat and the worst of the dirty three — high fructose corn syrup.


Lots of great things happened in the early 1990s. Kurt Cobain was still alive, I smelled like teen spirit and MTV was still playing music videos. Life was good. But for one man (in spandex and on a bike) something was lacking. Like any other day in 1990, Gary Erickson set out on a killer one-day 175 mile bike ride with his buddy. Packed to the hilt with water, energy bars (the only one on the market at the time) and a whole lot of enthusiasm, Gary took off and at the halfway point he was exhausted and hungry. That’s when inspiration struck and the idea for Clif Bar was born. Gary wanted to make something that was “nutritionally-dense, great tasting food with the right combination of carbohydrates, protein and fiber to deliver sustained energy.” But all he had was a good idea and no clue where to start. So he did what the best of us usually do … he called his mom. The mother son team spent months baking and coming up with different bars that were good, but just not right. Finally, in 1992 Gary created a recipe and founded a company he believed in.

Forget a triple bottom line, Clif has more to offer. According to their website, Clif is “Guided by Five Aspirations — Sustaining our People, Sustaining our Brands, Sustaining our Business, Sustaining our Community and Sustaining the Planet — the Company is on a journey towards long-term sustainability.” Talk about overachieving! To find out all about the Clif philosophy and their five guiding principals go here. But just to whet your whistle I have taken some of the good news highlights and plopped ’em below. Check it out:




  • The Cool Commute program gives Clif employees cash incentives to reduce their commuting carbon footprint. With cold hard cash like $6500 towards a bio diesel or hybrid car and $500 towards the purchase of a commuter bicycle – who wouldn’t aim to be green in the trade parade? 
  • Employees can opt in for a flexible work week schedule. 
  • Dogs and babes are welcome in the workplace. 
  • There’s even a sabbatical program! 


  • Clif only uses organic in all of their products. 
  • The company is focused on becoming zero waste and they are well on their way. Right now they divert 70 percent of their waste from local landfills by recycling and composting.
  • Clif uses only 100 percent post consumer recycled paper products at their Berkeley, Calif. headquarters. 


  • According to their website Clif Bar & Company has greater annual net revenues than $200 million.
  • Clif supports a variety of outdoor advocacy programs like the Access Fund and Leave No Trace.
  • The company also developed LUNAFEST a traveling short movie festival by, for and about women. All of the profits go directly to the Breast Cancer Fund.


Clif just announced that they are now 20 percent Employee Owned! This is great news and as I have mentioned in previous Dollars & Sense articles employee ownership is the sure sign of a wicked good company. Stay tuned, as I’ll be exploring ESOP culture in a future article and have tons of specialists in the field to help decipher the concept and the benefits. Find out more about Clif’s ESOP here.

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Image courtesy Clif.



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