The Motley Fool's readers have spoken, and I have heeded your cries. After months of pointing out CEO gaffes and faux pas, I've decided to make it a weekly tradition to also point out corporate leaders who are putting the interests of shareholders and the public first and are generally deserving of praise from investors. For reference, here is last week's selection.
This week, I'm going to mix things up a bit. Usually I only profile CEOs of publicly traded companies, but I can think of no one more deserving than Clif Bar co-CEOs Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford (who also happen to be married).
Kudos to you, Gary and Kit
I probably don't have to tell you by now what an important role higher-quality nutritional products are playing in our society. With obesity rates pushing 35% in the United States, dollars are being thrown en masse at healthier eating and living habits.
Both Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ARNA) and VIVUS (NASDAQ:VVUS) in the biotech space have developed and gained approval by the FDA for chronic-weight-management drugs Belviq and Qsymia. Fast-dining restaurants like McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) and Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) have likewise heeded the warnings from consumers that healthier food options were needed. McDonald's was the first fast-food chain to offer salads and snack wraps, while Chipotle offers only meats coming from suppliers who avoid using antibiotics and chemicals. And if that's not enough proof in the pudding that health matters to consumers, then look at the sales of Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM), which held up very well in spite of the major recession because consumers are seeking out healthier food options, even if they come with a premium price.
That's where privately held Clif Bar comes into play. Sales at the company, which also includes Luna brand bars and offers only products made with organic ingredients, are now topping $200 million as it continues to expand and take advantage of consumers' insatiable appetite for nutritious foods. Clif Bar was also recently named to Inc. Magazine's 2012's list of the 500 fastest-growing U.S. companies.
A step above its peers
What makes Clif particularly unique is its focus on its employees, the community, and the environment. It would probably take me a day just to list all of the positives surrounding Clif, but here's a brief summary of some of the best perks.
To begin with, employees receive a half-hour of paid workout time each day, as well as 2.5 hours of free personal training time. In addition, subsidies are an important part of being a Clif employee. Workers can expect to receive a $6,500 subsidy to buy an electric vehicle, and a $1,000 rebate for performing an energy upgrade on their home, as well as subsidized meals, massages, day care, and dry cleaning. Furthermore, employees can participate in the company's Employee Stock Ownership Plan, which has now pushed employee ownership up to 20% of all outstanding private shares. Perhaps my favorite perk: the ability to bring your dog to the office!
Clif also cares a lot about the environment and the community, as it's currently in the process of building a sustainable green headquarters. Through Project 2080, Clif's employees cumulatively provide 2080 hours (equivalent to a year's worth of work for one employee) of charitable service in the course of a year. On a smaller, but equally important, level, Clif is offering to donate $5 to "Leave No Trace" if you upload a photo of your outdoor adventure moment to their website.
Two thumbs up
Sometimes absolutely no sugarcoating is needed. In an interview with Triple Crown Leadership in October, co-CEO Kit Crawford said that her company has "Five bottom lines: Sustaining our People, Sustaining our Business, Sustaining our Brands, Sustaining our Community, and Sustaining the Planet." That pretty much speaks to the giving ethos of this company. Both co-CEOs, Erickson and Crawford, have built the company as one they would themselves enjoy working for, and it shows in both the amazing perks offered and its strong growth figures. Although the company is privately held, there are plenty of current CEOs who could learn a thing or two from these two co-CEOs, who get a resounding two thumbs up from me!
Do you have a CEO you'd like to nominate for this prestigious weekly honor? If so, head on over to the new CEO of the Week board and chime in with your fellow Fools on who deserves some praise. If you don't have a nominee yet, don't worry; you can still weigh in on other members' selections.