Clif Bar is doing good in so many different areas, it makes me very happy to see. In my mind, Clif should be the standard for how much companies should do (because they physically can) for people and planet. They are highly transparent about their sustainability journey, providing information on their various initiatives dating back to 2001. Clif is even transparent about what they are working towards in order to do their part: electric vehicles by 2030, sustainable packaging by 2025, more women in the Twin Falls facility, and a greater percentage of organic ingredients. With Clif being so committed to the environment, they make sure their suppliers are in line with their values and are using sustainable practices. Clif is a sustainability powerhouse and helps everyone they come into contact with (suppliers and consumers) to be more eco-friendly. Clif is able to do this because they, as a family owned mission driven business, absorb the costs because they believe it is the right thing to do. They appear to be transparent about their problem areas on their website and are actively trying to fix them.
Clif Bar has been on a journey to make their bars fully organic or sustainably sourced. Currently, all of the bars in Clif’s inventory are made with 76% organic ingredients. 100% of the cocoa they source is Rainforest Alliance Certified. This is significant because cocoa has the potential to do harm to the communities and ecosystems where it is cultivated. By having this certification, their cocoa goes through third-party auditors who evaluate the cocoa’s effect on forests, climate change, human rights, and livelihoods before granting it. Through this investment in ethically sourced cocoa, Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa farms are able to produce 58% more cocoa and enjoy a 291% increase in net income (compared to non-certified cocoa farms in the same region) according to a 2012 study commissioned by the Rainforest Alliance. Similarly, all of their palm oil purchased for Clif foods is either USDA organic or Rainforest Alliance Certified. This is significant because as Clif points out on their website, palm oil that is not ethically sourced causes deforestation, displacement of indigenous peoples, and enhances competition between large agribusinesses. There is one ingredient I would like more information on: soy and cane sugar. Their soy flour is organic, but their soy protein isolate and soy lecithin are not organic on the label. With both of these, there are issues pertaining to sourcing (if the soy is from the Amazon, it would have a very large environmental impact) and to chemical use (chemicals used for extraction may cause runoff into the environment). Because of Clif’s commitment to their values in every other area I will assume they are sourcing their soy from the US. This would make sense for them to do from a supply chain perspective since most US soy is produced in the upper midwest and they have a facility nearby in Indiana. I would like to know from Clif why their bars have not been able to reach 100% organic ingredients, but I acknowledge that supply chains are complex and believe that Clif should be celebrated for sourcing either organically or ethically for most of their product.
Clif is highly transparent regarding their manufacturing facilities and processes. Clif Bar is made through two Clif manufacturing facilities in the US: one in Indianapolis, IN and the other in Twin Falls, ID. The process to produce a pallet of Clif Bars (486 boxes, unknown number of bars per box) utilizes both automated and human processes and takes just one hour from forming the bars to putting them on the pallet. The ingredients move through different stages in the plant to form the bar, from sourcing syrup from one of their five 275,000 gallon tanks to working in the unique ingredients (e.g. chocolate) by hand. Once the bars are formed, they pass through long oven tunnels and then through long cooling tunnels, and after these steps are completed, are packed via an automated packing system into wrappers, then cartons, then onto the pallet. One problem that currently exists for Clif’s sustainability is their packaging. It currently is not readily (readily with regards to consumers being able to dispose of it sustainably and easily) recyclable, compostable, or reusable. Despite this, Clif discloses this information and assures customers they are continuing to do better. They have committed to using recyclable, compostable, reusable packaging for their bars by 2025. They package these bars in FSC paperboard which in one year saved 130,000 trees, 90 million gallons of water, and 15 million pounds of CO2 compared to industry standard cardboard since it is sourced from post consumer waste or responsibly managed forests. While I was unable to find specific data on the efficiency of their facilities, Clif has committed to using 100% green power for electricity at all facilities owned and operated by Clif. Just over one third of this energy comes from their solar plant that they have installed at their facility. They have offset 250,000 metric tons of CO2 since 2003, in addition to having completely offset their historical emissions (since 1992). Clif Bar’s largest source of emissions come from transporting their product to customers so to combat this, they have committed to fully converting their product transportation fleet to plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles by 2030. Clif Bars are made with green power in company owned manufacturing facilities and they have their sights set on lowering their footprint even further by electrifying their transportation. Clif is a great example of environmental leadership.
Clif Bar is a family owned company. They decided to open their own manufacturing facility in the US in 2016 which drastically increases Clif’s sustainability. Having control of your own supply chain cuts emissions by reducing the energy used to get the product on store shelves. It also ensures that employees at the manufacturing facility have working conditions that provide a good standard of living because they are a part of the Clif brand. Another benefit of having control over manufacturing is that they can make social/environmental advancements as they see fit, which is exactly what they have been doing. They have joined an initiative by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Global Commitment called Packaging with Purpose in which they pledge to have their packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025. They have achieved LEED Gold certification for their Twin Falls bakery and have also installed solar panels that provide 30% of the facility’s annual energy. Further, Clif Bar donates one percent of their revenues to communities in which it does business and so far that has been around $49 million. More of their sustainability initiatives, achievements, and milestones can be found on their website. One critique I have of the brand is that they try to overstate their sustainability by saying they have purchased “one billion pounds of organic ingredients to date”. While of course they should be commended for transitioning to 70% organically sourced as this serves to absorb some of the sustainability costs on the company’s end (and not the consumer’s), it does not give the consumer a reference point or offer an explanation as to why their bar can not be 30% more organic. This statement of the product’s sustainability does not actually say that much. Despite this, Clif is the largest private funder of organic research in the entire US, making it easy for me to trust that they are doing their part. It is clear to me that Clif Bar is a brand who goes above and beyond to pursue sustainability and will continue to do so moving forward.
* Ingredients: https://shop.clifbar.com/products/clif-bar-chocolate-chip?gclid=CjwKCAiAp4KCBhB6EiwAxRxbpFtCSFtekwG8EF-IyungnNO7bGZK3WOWhzgousFoY09UpJERQ5X7RBoCcHoQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
* Manufacturing Leadership Council report on Clif’s innovative processes: https://www.manufacturingleadershipcouncil.com/2019/11/20/clif-bar-a-different-kind-of-manufacturer/
* Benefits of manufacturing in the US: https://www.rodongroup.com/blog/7-benefits-of-manufacturing-in-the-us
* Clif Bar - 20 years of sustainability: https://www.clifbar.com/stories/our-sustainability-journey
* Soy protein isolate information: https://www.idealraw.com/blog/plant-based-nutrition/soy-protein-isolate-alternatives/#:~:text=The%20USDA%20has%20also%20labeled,use%20the%20hexane%20extraction%20method.&text=The%20final%20result%20is%20the,your%20non%2Dorganic%20protein%20powders.
* Clif → Sustainably sourced cocoa and palm → https://www.clifbar.com/stories/certified-sustainable-ingredients-from-around-the-world
* Clif Bar Case Study: https://studylib.net/doc/9176572/clif-bar-case-study
* EPA Clif Bar Case Study: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-01/documents/epa-clif-bar-case-study.pdf
* Native partnership - Carbon Offsets: https://native.eco/2017/12/clif-bar-and-company-success-story/
* Clif Bar - Global Cooling Climate Action: https://www.clifbar.com/stories/climate-action
* Rainforest Alliance Certification: https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/faqs/what-does-rainforest-alliance-certified-mean
* Clif - Organic Initiatives: https://www.clifbar.com/who-we-are/food-values/organic-for-good