Most companies today recognize the brand and reputational benefits of communicating their purpose and values. The result is often aspirational advertisements and provocative videos that shine a spotlight on a company's social and environmental commitments. Yet increasingly, those promises are put to the test. This week, Chipotle proved just how far it is willing to go to support its "Food with Integrity."
Chipotle made the landmark decision to pull pork from a third of its restaurants on Wednesday after it discovered a violation of its animal welfare policies during a routine supplier check-in. The decision impacts nearly 600 restaurants and will primarily affect the availability of carnitas on the menu, which accounts for about seven percent of entrée sales at the chain. Instead of switching to a conventional supplier to protect sales, Chipotle opted to temporarily pull the product. "This is fundamentally an animal welfare decision and it's rooted in our unwillingness to compromise our standards where animal welfare is concerned," said Chris Arnold, communications director at Chipotle. The company has sourced all pork sustainably since 2001; its "naturally raised" policy outlines that pigs are "raised outside or in deeply bedded pens, are never given antibiotics and are fed a vegetarian diet."
Chipotle, a company that has put its values front and center of the brand with campaigns like "The Scarecrow" and "Back to the Start," is joining the ranks of other companies that are "walking the talk" when it comes to CSR. Like CVS'* decision to stop selling tobacco and Patagonia's ad encouraging consumers not to buy their jacket, Chipotle sees the value in standing up for its values. The brand is banking on long-term consumer brand affinity and loyalty over short-term revenue. And as Patagonia saw when its sales actually increased by a third, consumers are ready and willing to support companies that are unwavering in their commitments.