Dec 18, 2019
Well, friends…the day is here.
Chipotle Mexican Grill is on the Business with
Purpose Podcast, and I cannot contain my excitement! If you know me
at all, you know I’d take meeting for burritos over meeting for
coffee any day. And of course, we’d get chips and guac too! Not
only am I a fan of Chipotle’s food, I also love their mission and
purpose. The care about sustainability and use real, clean
ingredients while supporting local farms worldwide. Join me as I
hear more about this from Chipotle’s Director of Sustainability,
Caitlin Liebert. She’s responsible for creating and implementing
the company’s sustainability vision and strategy in more than 2,500
restaurants all over the world. We’re not just talking material
waste reduction; this also means tackling energy management, water
stewardship, and more! Hit that play button to hear more about
Caitlin’s beginnings with Chipotle and the initiatives she’s led to
take Chipotle to the next level!
4:45 - The Caitlin 101
- Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio,
Caitlin is a Cleveland sports fan like me! Go Browns! She always
wanted to attend Dartmouth College and when she didn’t get in after
an early-decision application process, she decided to make the most
out of a start fresh at a university she knew nothing about. She
had a great four years at The University of New Hampshire and after
graduating, moved back to Cleveland with a plan to pursue sports
- Caitlin was recruited straight out
of college to work in sports marketing with the PGA Tour. She knew
immediately that it wasn’t the right job for her. A few weeks
later, her mom told her that she’d seen a marketing position at
Chipotle in Cleveland.
- Even though Caitlin had no
interest in working in the food industry and was still set on the
sports marketing industry, she applied after some encouragement
from her mom.
- Chipotle flew Caitlin out for a
day-long interview at a regional office in D.C. By the end of the
day, it was clear that Chipotle was the right company for her. The
rest is history and Caitlin has worked for Chipotle for the past
- Caitlin eventually moved to Boston
and helped open up the New England market. After three years, she
had an opportunity to start the Sustainability Department. She
moved to Denver for nine years before moving to Orange County, CA
when the company relocated.
- Chipotle has a mission to
cultivate a better world, and Caitlin’ and her team’s job is to
help fulfill that promise on the environmental side of that
- The Sustainability Department is
responsible for waste, energy, and water while also cultivating a
better world in the way Chipotle grows and raises food, supporting
the next generation of farmers, and even benefits they offer
- Caitlin and her team also write
the Chipotle Sustainability Report that is published every two
years. They set “aggressive industry-leading but attainable goals”
to continue improving the way they approach food, animals, people,
and the environment.
10:29 - Setting the
- Chipotle has been a unique leader
by setting the standard for the way similar restaurants approach
sustainability and health. In 2015, Chipotle announced that they
were going completely non-GMO.
- Steve Ells founded Chipotle in
1993 with a vision to drive sales with flavor. He began to learn
about how animals are raised, and that the quality of an animal’s
life impacts the way the meat tastes. The idea of food with
integrity started early.
- Food with integrity has grown to
changing how people eat fast food. From that foundation, Chipotle
can continue to make strides in cultivating a better
- A clear vision and the ability to
make a positive impact in the community attracts the best talent;
people who are passionate about their work.
- Chipotle also partners with local
food supply chains to source ingredients from local farmers. It’s
incredibly impactful when a large corporation is passionate about
offering local, organic ingredients, and animal welfare meat at an
affordable price point. The accessibility of the quality of food
that Chipotle offers is very unique.
- Younger generations seem to be
embracing the idea of both delicious good and sustainability. You
don’t have to choose between good food and supporting something
positive; Chipotle is providing both!
18:48 – Defining and Achieving
- Sustainability does not currently
have a precise definition; it can mean different things to
different people and various industries. One of Chipotle’s biggest
goals has been to divert half of their waste by 2020.
- One of the biggest challenges in
sustainability is that disposable waste is a component of the
restaurant industry. Many customers want to take their leftovers
home or order “to go.” Chipotle is working on sustainability by
considering where disposable waste comes from, how it’s used in the
restaurant and where it ends up. It’s a huge challenge but the
mentality at Chipotle is innovative and creative solutions that
have never been done before.
- Multiple times a year, Chipotle
actually audits their waste (all of it) to determine what
percentage is cutlery, straws, gloves, etc. They found that their
biggest waste comes from plastic gloves employees use to prepare
food. While they’re working on a straw-less lid and compostable
straw options, they knew the biggest priority was finding a
solution for gloves.
- They looked to see if anything
else in their restaurant was made out of the same plastic material
as the gloves, which lead them to realize their next biggest waste
were plastic trash bags.
- Chipotle asked the makers of the
gloves and the trash bags if they could use those materials over
again. Chipotle innovated the first-ever circular economy system
where their used gloves are incorporate back into the trash bags
used in their restaurants.
- Chipotle took it one step further
to try and bring other industries and companies on board to do the
28:09 – Advocating Their
- Chipotle works hard to ensure
their efforts are not just “greenwashing” (using misleading information about how a company's products to
make people believe they are more environmentally sound when
they’re really not).
- The challenge is so massive to
improve the sustainability of the planet and Chipotle wants to work
together with other companies to help achieve that.
- We also need a shift at the
consumer level for businesses to also take more responsibility for
- Regulation is currently increasing
around waste, and hopefully that will continue with government
mandating and business responsibility.
- If we’re more aware of what we
have and taking care of what we have, we can use and reuse and
- If you can understand where what
you buy comes from and the impact it has, the consumer level of
awareness and passion to make good change will shift.
36:05 – Find out how Chipotle’s new CEO, Brian Niccol (from Taco
Bell!) has dramatically increased Chipotle’s stock prices. Tune in
to hear more about how this change has affected Chipotle’s drive
43:04 - Getting to Know Our
Find out something you’d never guess
about Caitlin (hint: she’s got an amazing project on deck), her
favorite thing to order on the Chipotle menu, and what it means to
her to run a business with purpose (you’ll want to hear what she
thinks about the power you have as a consumer).
30:47 – Sustainability in the Next
- Caitlin hopes to see a shift from
a disposable economy to a reusable economy. We need drastic changes
to continue maintaining the planet as we know it.
- Brands without purpose will not
fare as well as brands with purpose. I think that it will become
more and more obvious
13:21: “Food for us is the gateway
by which we can help really make incredibly positive impact, not
just in the communities that we operate which are many, but also in
our supply network.”
29:21: “I’m working in one little
corner of the world and while it is a massive (challenge) we can
all work together to help improve the sustainability of the
31:34: “I think brands without
purpose will not fare as well as brands with purpose. I think that
it will become more and more obvious that we all need to do our
part to work together to help solve the tremendous challenge of
climate change and sustainability as a whole.”
About Caitlin Leibert - Director of Sustainability, Chipotle
As Head of Sustainability for
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Caitlin is responsible for creating and
implementing the company’s sustainability vision and strategy in
more than 2,500 restaurants worldwide. From waste reduction, to
energy management, to water stewardship, Caitlin works to minimize
Chipotle’s impact as a company and plays a key role in developing
new practices. She also serves as Executive Director of the
Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, Chipotle’s 501(c)3. Caitlin started
her career at Chipotle in 2007 as a marketing strategist in
northern Ohio and later went on to oversee marketing in New England
before moving to Denver, Colorado in 2011 to start Chipotle’s
sustainability department. Caitlin received her BA in journalism
from the University of New Hampshire where she graduated Magna Cum
Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She then went on to earn her Masters in
Sustainability Leadership from the University of Cambridge in the
UK in 2016. She was appointed to a two year term on the Mayor’s
Sustainability Advisory Council for the City of Denver. She
currently resides in Orange County, California.
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