By Ralf Quellmalz


My mother used to make the most amazing yogurt.”

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Chobani

Chobani, the leading yogurt brand in America, has transformed yogurt into one of the most popular and fashionable foods. The brand’s healthy, natural, people-focused business has won the hearts (and tummies) of customers. By substituting artificial additives with natural ingredients, Chobani has disrupted the yogurt industry in America.

Even though Chobani’s products represent a remarkable, tasty, and healthy food option, it’s not that which makes Chobani stand out. What truly differentiates Chobani’s brand is its strong commitment towards using its resources and influences to use its business as a force for change and progress within the diverse communities in which it operates. Chobani embodies a purposeful culture that drives its strong financial and strategic performance.

There are many strategies that Chobani has implemented to transform its business into something much greater than a yogurt-company. For instance, the company pays its factory workers more than twice the amount of the minimum wage. At the same time, Chobani also has a company equity-sharing program. Through that program, Chobani ensures that employees have the opportunity to own shares of the company – transforming employees into company owners. Chobani proudly affirms that 10% of its business is owned by its employees. The way Chobani sees it, making their employees owners of the company in which they work for drives their motivation, passion, and desire to make their company great. By making their employees owners of the company, Chobani ensures that employees put both their minds and hearts into the work they do. It makes employees’ work not only professional, but also personal to them.

Chobani's Raspberry, Blueberry, and Peach yogurts displayed with their respective fruits
Chobani’s delicious and sustainable products

What the Company Stands For:

Chobani has the mission of bringing high-quality yogurt to more people and create positive change in their country’s food culture. Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani’s founder and CEO, has created Chobani with a strong focus on placing people over and above profits. Ulukaya believes that businesses should be morally and responsibly led and pursue objectives way greater and more powerful than profits. As a result, Chobani takes pride in offering employees one of the best workplaces in the industry, giving back to the communities in which they operate, and responsibly drive social, environmental, and humanitarian change. For Ulukaya, business and philanthropy couldn’t be more united. 

Chobani seeks to leverage its resources and influence to do good to the planet, its people, and its communities. For Chobani, it has been that way since their very first day.

The $1.5 billion company has proven that those organizations that stand up for the communities in which they operate and look at the ‘bigger picture’ are rewarded with superior levels of both strategic and financial performance. Through its strong commitment to their communities, Chobani is reward with more inspired and motivated employees, not to mention how they are winning over the hearts of their customers. Employees at Chobani know that their work has meaning and that their efforts are contributing towards a cause much greater than themselves – a cause that will outlive them. Consequently, employees at Chobani not only find purpose at their work, but also fulfillment.

Chobani employees happily posing and celebrating as a team next to their CEO
Chobani’s employees – a collaborative team committed to making a difference

Chobani’s Nine Stars:

The Chobani Way, as the company proudly identifies with, illustrates Chobani’s soul and identity. It details how Chobani’s purpose of making universal wellness happen sooner will be for the benefit of each and every one of its stakeholders – customers, employees, communities, and the planet.    

To live up to its promise, Chobani drives meaningful change and impact both in its industry as well as in its communities through its sustainable business practices. For instance, Chobani’s manufacturing operations and supply chain are embedded in the values of sustainability. At the same time, Chobani seeks to foster the development of small businesses within its own industry. Rather than seeing small businesses as their competition, Chobani sees them as partners.

Chobani’s Nine Stars illustrates and embodies the company’s sustainability goals. Their Nine Stars illuminate what goals Chobani has set to better the world, its customers, its employees, and the communities in which they operate. Through its Nine Stars, Chobani has set a guide towards running and operating their business in an ethically and sustainable manner.  

Chobani’s Nine Stars are the following:

  1. 100% Renewable Energy: Reduce the company’s carbon footprint and power its manufacturing operations with 100% renewable energy
  2. Water Neutral: Reduce the company’s water consumption and distribute as much water as they consume back to their local community
  3. Zero Waste to Landfill: Fight manufacturing waste and minimize the company’s environmental impact.
  4. Renewable Fuels: Improve the company’s distribution and transportation by powering them with renewable fuels
  5. Sustainable Packaging: Making their packaging either fully recyclable, compostable, biodegradable, or made with recycled content.
  6. Sustainable Sourcing: Source all ingredients in a way that protects the people and the planet.
  7. Dairy Worker Wellbeing: Ensuring that dairy workers are not only protected, but also thriving.
  8. Inclusion and Diversity: Championing inclusion, diversity, and equity throughout the company.
  9. Strengthening Rural Communities: Using its business, philanthropy, and development initiatives to create opportunities in rural communities.
A Chobani employee feeding one of the company's cows to display how sustainable Chobani is
Sustainability is at the heart of Chobani’s business practices

Their Nine Stars guides Chobani towards the goals they are trying to accomplish. Their Nine Stars, however, do not embody selfish and self-glorifying goals. Instead, the ‘stars’ Chobani chose to pursue embody noble and selfless goals that comes first in the benefit of their customers, employees, and the planet, and then to the benefit of their brand. As Chobani sees it, taking care of the planet and the communities they serve is not only the morally right thing to do, but also a wonderful way to practice enlightening self-interest.

Chobani knows that taking care of all shareholders is not only good for the planet, but it’s also good for their business. Customers today will no longer support those companies placing profits over and above people. Employees will no longer dedicate their time, energy, and commitment towards those employers who sacrifice their well-being in their pursuit of profits. Communities will not welcome those companies whose business practices are selfish and self-glorifying. Chobani knows that doing the right thing for the right reason is the way to conquer the heart of its customers, employees, and the ecosystems in which they operate.

It’s no surprise that Chobani has won the following recognitions and awards for in the past few years:

  • Chobani named one of the Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality by the Human Rights Campaign
  • Chobani certified as a Great Place to Work®
  • Chobani recognized by Fast Company as one of the most innovative companies in the world
  • Chobani recognized by Fortune as one of the top 50 Companies Changing the World

Through their sustainability efforts, Chobani is strengthening communities, enhancing childhood nutrition, improving wellness across the US, and assisting those in need – wherever they might be. Chobani has and is consistently seeking to strengthen the ties of communities and improve the livelihood of countless individuals.

Lessons Learned:

For Chobani, doing good is not something they seek to mark off their checklist. There isn’t one department or one team within the organization trying to build the company’s corporate social responsibility efforts. Every single employee at Chobani knows that they play an important role in the company’s ability to drive positive change by using both its influence and resources as a platform for progress. Chobani’s leadership has made sure that employees know that they are all together in Chobani’s efforts of making a difference and that it’s only when all forces are united that real change can be effectuated.

Chobani has proven that regardless of the industry or the nature of an organization, each and every one has the capacity to become agents of change in the diverse communities in which they operate. Chobani has demonstrated that cultivating purpose, ownership, and a deep sense of belonging within employees, customers, and communities is the common ingredient for success to all organizations.

The challenge, however, is not creating an organization whose values and practices wins over the minds and hearts of their shareholders. The challenge is to cultivate a vision that could sustainably maintain superior financial, strategic, and moral performance. 

Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani's founder and CEO, smiling next to Chobani yogurt products
Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani’s founder and CEO, a true agent of change

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Mainwaring, Simon. “Purpose At Work: How Chobani Builds A Purposeful Culture Around Social Impact.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 3 May 2019, www.forbes.com/sites/simonmainwaring/2018/08/27/how-chobani-builds-a-purposeful-culture-around-social-impact/#71aaa9f720f7.

“Impact: Chobani®.” Impact | Chobani®, www.chobani.com/impact/.

“Socially Responsible: Chobani -.” Diet Detective, 22 Oct. 2019, www.dietdetective.com/socially-responsible-chobani/.

Haddon, Heather. “Yogurt Sales Sour as Options Proliferate.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 9 Apr. 2019, www.wsj.com/articles/yogurt-sales-sour-as-options-proliferate-11554811200.

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