Chipotle: One of Your Best Models for Green Business?

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Chipotle Green Business

Finding Inspiration for Your Green Business

Sometimes you just need some inspiration, let’s face it: running a business is tough work. Running a green business can potentially be even tougher. The costs seem to add up quicker and the sales seem to be less. However, one of my favorite examples of a green business that’s not just surviving but thriving abundantly is Chipotle. I realize that it’s a chain, so there’s a safety net built in, but each individual business does have the capacity to go even greener than the basic “green” standards set by Chipotle, and most do take their own initiative and do just that.

 

Individuality Within the Chain

Chipotle restaurant chain

One of the best examples of this might be a small Chipotle in the town of Gurnee, IL, the first restaurant ever to receive platinum certification (the highest level) in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. They managed this, for starters, by implementing their own wind turbine, in addition to a 2,500 gallon underground cistern of water that harvests rainwater. And, as if that isn’t enough, their building has LED lighting, parking lot asphalt designed to reflect heat rather than absorb, all Energy Star-rated kitchen equipment, and a landscaping plan that uses native plants watered with the water captured by their cistern. The Gurnee store was followed shortly thereafter by one in Minnetonka, MN, and I would imagine, is soon to be followed by many, many more.

Another example of individual store option: 75 Chipotle restaurants opted to install solar panels within a 12 month period in 2009. Those 75 stores alone are expected to reduce global CO2 emissions by 41 million pounds.

 

Principle of Chipotle

Chipotle Dressings

Beyond sustainable buildings, Chipotle has managed to establish itself as a leader in sustainability, from the ground under their building up to the very last ingredient in the food they serve, which they also coin “Food with Integrity” or, in other words “a philosophy that we can always do better in terms of the food we buy. And when we say better, we mean better in every sense of the word – better tasting, coming from better sources, better for the environment, better for the animals, and better for the farmers who raise the animals and grow the produce.”

 

Chipotle Take-Aways for Your Business

While that may sound grand, when frustrated with the “business” aspect of a green business, the important part of the equation is looking at how they do what they do and what exactly they’re doing. Here are some good take-aways:

  1. Simple is Best
    They are selling a very simple menu. In fact, they pride themselves on that, arguing that the fewer things you do (sell) the better you do them.
  2. Green Can be a Process
    Contrary to what you may think of as a fully, wholly sustainable business and its beginnings, Chipotle did not start out 100% green and, in fact, is still not 100% there. Food with Integrity came along the way. When they find better ways to do things, they change accordingly.When opportunities arise for more sustainable options, they go for it. But, it takes time. Cut yourself some slack if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’ll get there.
  3. Green Doesn’t Have to Be In Your Face
    Chipotle is, without a doubt, the most sustainable business in the fast food world, and has a leg up on the majority of all restaurants in general. Yet, in spite of that, in spite of their organic ingredients and dedication to sustainability from the ground up, few of their customers, or even their employees for that matter, can tell you where the pork comes from or what the method of selecting ethical farmers is. They don’t shout out their “green-ness” to you. It’s just there, and it works.
  4. Bottom Line, Good Product Pays Off
    As suggested by the fact that they don’t have to advertise and brag about being green, they just have really good product. They put their heart and soul into it, they back it with everything they got, and they serve nothing that they themselves don’t think is amazing.
  5. Hard Work Does PayoffDo some research on the CEO Steve Ells. You’ll see just how much hard work he put into that business, and I think he’ll tell you it’s pretty worth it.