Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG), which pioneered the use of (and is the only fast food chain to do so) organic, locally grown ingredients in fast food, has created a nonprofit foundation to support sustainable farming practices.
The new Chipotle Cultivate Foundation says it will support organizations for family farms; food education programs for younger generations; and ranchers and farmers who are developing more sustainable practices.
Chipotle, which has 1,100 restaurants nationwide, has been serving locally, organically grown produce in its restaurants since 2008. It says it will use over 10 million pounds of fruits and vegetables grown within 350 miles of the restaurants where it will be served – raising the bar from its goal of 5 million pounds in 2010. It expects to double its use of locally grown produce this year. It’s also installing solar on its stores.
Chipotle has a history of supporting causes related to improving the way people eat. Over the last two years, the company has donated more than $2 million to philanthropic organizations, with much of that benefiting groups that are working to improve some element of the food system, including Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Nature Conservancy, FamilyFarmed.org, The Lunch Box, and the Niman Ranch Scholarship Fund, among many others.
"For more than a decade, we have been working to improve the nation’s food supply by finding more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients we use in our restaurants," says Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. "By creating the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, we are extending our reach beyond our restaurants and will be supporting organizations and people that are working to improve individual family farms, animals and the environment, and youth and education programs."
In October, Chipotle will host "Cultivate Chicago," its first one-day festival combining music, art and food.
"We’re bringing together farmers, chefs, thought leaders, artisans and musicians on a journey that not only celebrates wholesome food, but that also champions the like-minded people who share our vision to create a better food supply and a more sustainable future," Ells says.
Cultivate Chicago is intended to get people thinking and talking about food and food issues, the company says. Attendees will have the opportunity to sample and purchase food crafted by local artisans, while a beer garden will include craft ales and organic wines available for tasting. Two separate stages will host rock stars of the culinary world as they demonstrate different techniques as well as share their knowledge and love of sustainable food preparation.
Celebrity chefs Richard Blais (The Spence/Atlanta), Michael Chiarello (Bottega and NapaStyle/Yountville, Calif.), Amanda Freitag (Food Network/New York), and Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto/New York), as well as Chicago favorites Paul Kahan (Blackbird, avec, The Publican, Big Star/Chicago), Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Terzo Piano/Chicago), Bruce Sherman (North Pond/Chicago), and Paul Virant (vie and Perennial Virant/Chicago) will be cooking, speaking and conducting demonstrations throughout the day.
Admission to the festival is free and Chipotle says it intends to host similar events in other cities as well.
Chipotle was on the SB20 for several years – the World’s Top Sustainable Stocks – produced by SustainableBusiness.com, for its leadership in sourcing organically raised beef, chicken, pork, beans, and vegetables.
Sustainability is a nice sounding thing, and really makes us feel a lot better about what we eat. It’s hard to fault at this point. But I see a danger down the road with these sort of businesses.
At this point, a lot of these larger national and even global food chains have due pressure to become more sustainable. In that I have hope. They benefit the local communities by buying their food from local farmers. One of two things is going to happen. They are going to continue to forge relationships with local food producers wherever they go and sooner or later corner the market and basically start to own the producers, turning these businesses into monopolies. If this starts to happen, lets hope that people have the wherewithal to understand the dangers of this, and start “trust busting” or breaking up these monopolies.
To make a long story short, sustainability is good, but these large businesses cannot go under that noble veil forever. What we need alongside sustainability is LOCAL competition (emphasis on LOCAL). Ideally, we shouldn’t have Chipotle hogging resources from local communities that could probably be more morally and ethically used by local mom & pop businesses. This is a “you snooze, you lose” situation for small business owners. You need to get up and forge relationships with these local farmers before these big businesses do it for you! We want sustainable and local working together. I hope this makes sense.
While I think William V’s point is a good one, this has the potential to provide more money for the producer. I agree that local business should forge relationships with local producers – and believe that local producers need to market effectively to local business. But if Chipotle is going to pay more than the local Mom and Pops, then the producer should rightfully get the best price for goods. If the local Mom and Pops can compete, then product will go to them. I doubt that Chipotle is going to corner the market, but this warrants consideration and watching by local producers. But we also need to keep government and “trust-busting” out of the mix. Let the market work and keep government out of it.