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Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshot

Chipotle Moves Toward Local Sourcing

Fast food chains are rather notorious for their use of elaborate energy-intensive supply chain processes. Chipotle however, seems to be focused on doing things differently. As far as CSR is concerned, their policies on food and practices seem to be a far cry from other fast-food chains. Since 2008, Steve Ells, the founder and CEO of Chipotle has been focusing on sourcing his meat from ethical sources: “The chain now serves only rBGH-free dairy products, and all of its pork meets its standards for hormone- and antibiotic-free, humanely raised meat, as does 100% of its chicken and 60% of its beef. That makes Chipotle the largest restaurant buyer of humanely raised meat.” The majority of food is prepared in each restaurant, with the exception of the beans and carnitas, which are prepared at a central kitchen in Chicago. None of the restaurants have freezers, microwave ovens, or can openers. The chain gives priority to fresh food and three days ago they announced that they will be increasing the amount of food sourced locally. The restaurant had a goal of using approximately 5 million pounds of local produce like bell peppers, oregano and romaine lettuce, and eventually plans to source more than 10 million pounds of local produce for its 1,100 locations. Ells released a statement saying, "Not only is local produce fresher and better tasting, but it also helps support the environment and regional farming communities around the country." This strategy is part of the chain's, Food with Integrity program. Up until now, Chipotle's produce has been procured from within 350 miles of its distribution centers (still a big improvement over the as 1,500 miles most food travels to reach an American diner).  Chipotle also aims to increase the use of cheese and sour cream from milk that comes from cows raised in open pastures and source more organic beans grown by means of conservation tillage. Beyond their food, their commitment to the environment has even affected how they design and build their restaurants. Their approach to CSR is also honest and transparent; this is rather apparent from their recent announcement that they have increased their food prices. For the first time since the recession, the chain recently announced that there will be a marginal price hike to ensure that they can continue to meet their stringent standards. They have recently introduced a variety of vegan and vegetarian items on their menu. They are ensure that all their foods are free of trans-fats. Chipotle serves 700,000 people a day and according to Ells, “access to sustainably raised food shouldn’t be a luxury, it should be an everyday occurrence.” If only every restaurant chain thought this way! They continue to be an excellent example of walking the talk and it is rather apparent from the very first bite of a Chipotle burrito.
Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshotAkhila Vijayaraghavan

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net

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