5. Clif Bar

Energy-food manufacturer

LOCATION: Emeryville, CA
BEST PERKS: Flex time, Fitness, Community & environmental support
HIRING? Yes! clifbar.com

Clif Bar and Company is a leading maker of nutritious and organic foods and drinks, including Clif Bar energy bar; Luna, the Whole Nutrition Bar for Women; Clif Kid; and Nourishing Kids in Motion.

Focused on sports nutrition and healthy snacks, the employee- and family-owned company is committed to sustaining its business, brands, people, community and the planet. According to an informal survey recently conducted by e-mail, employees love the casual, quirky culture; working shoulder-to-shoulder; doing what needs to be done and doing it with excellence; representing a product of integrity; real food for real people from a real family; not feeling silly walking through the office in a cycling kit.

In 2009, Clif Bar’s owners, Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, implemented an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) to recognize employees’ roles in helping build the business and because it is in line with their goal to lead a sustainable business for future generations. The company is now 20 percent employee owned, and the ESOP is funded entirely by contributions from the company with no employee contribution required. We also have an annual incentive plan based on company and individual performance; through this plan, all employees are eligible for annual bonuses targeted at a percentage of their base pay. Clif Bar and Company gives out several annual cash awards to employees based on the company’s Five Aspirations. Each year, five employees are recognized for excellence in the following categories (one employee is honored per category): Sustaining Our Brands, Sustaining Our Business, Sustaining Our People, Sustaining Our Community, and Sustaining the Planet. A special All Aspirations Award is given to the employee who realizes excellence in all five categories. Additionally, two employees are selected for the Cliff Erickson Award and the Mary Erickson Award. The Cliff Erickson Award, named in honor of founder Gary Erickson’s father, is awarded to an employee who displays the qualities of humility and graciousness. The Mary Erickson Award, named for Gary’s mother, is presented to an employee each year who consistently demonstrates attributes associated with Mary herself, namely a passion for food, life, family, and friends. These awards include a cash component, and recipients of the Cliff Erickson and Mary Erickson Awards may also designate a nonprofit to receive a cash donation in their name.

Each year, all Clif Bar employees and their immediate families are invited to join an annual ski trip. Clif Bar covers lodging, lift tickets, and a gourmet dinner hosted by Clif Bar’s co-owners, Gary and Kit. In addition to the ski trip, employees and families are invited to an annual whitewater-rafting trip or summer picnic, Epiphany (bicycle) Ride, holiday party, and a variety of other events featuring live music. 

Clif Bar and Company has an on-site gym with two yoga/dance studios and a main workout area, including a bouldering wall, stationary bikes, treadmills, free weights, resistance machines, a variety of stability and yoga supplies and props, and a private office for trainers. There are on-site showers and a towel service, so employees can shower after bike commuting to work or after working out in the gym on the clock. There are indoor bike racks and a fleet of in-house cruisers for employees to borrow for errands or to ride to a local lunch spot. Employees can work out for two and a half hours each week on company time. They can exercise with one of five on-site personal trainers, take one (or more) of 32 complimentary fitness classes offered each week, or work out on their own, all for free. Furthermore, employees have access to free nutritional counseling and life coaching (six visits of each per year), subsidized on-site massage and chiropractic services, an annual on-site health fair offering preventive health screening and information on holistic health options, and wellness seminars on topics such as healthy eating, stress, and holistic health. Clif also reimburses employees up to $350 per year for registrations or entry fees to defray the cost of participating in athletic competitions, including but not limited to marathons, triathlons, century bike rides, and 10K or 5K walk-run events.

Employees may opt to work a 9/80 schedule, in which employees work 80 hours in nine days and take every other Friday off. This schedule assumes nine hours worked Monday through Thursday and eight hours worked every other Friday. After seven years of service, employees enjoy a six-to-eight-week sabbatical.

Employees are encouraged to volunteer as possible to the community through Project 2080. Employees volunteer at the organizations of their choice for as many hours as they like. In 2010, Clif Bar employees donated 5,519 hours, supported 180 organizations, and had a community-service goal of 6,240 hours. In 2008, Clif started In Good Company, which grew out of the company’s long tradition of community service and the belief that collaboration among businesses is a powerful force for positive change. In Good Company creates an opportunity for companies and employees to come together and work side-by-side to improve people’s lives through direct volunteer service and by raising awareness about people’s needs while promoting healthy, sustainable communities locally and globally. In 2010, In Good Company sent 26 employee-volunteers from 11 companies to West Oakland, California, for seven days. Working with four local grassroots organizations, the team contributed more than 2,000 hours of volunteer efforts to the community—installing solar panels, building raised garden beds and chicken coops, and planting bamboo forests to filter particulate pollution. Another team of nine employees from three companies was sent to Hopi, Arizona, for seven days. This team addressed the critical lack of housing in American Indian communities by raising two dozen tresses and hauling nearly 300 straw bales to build a new, energy-efficient home.

Additionally, in 2010 Clif Bar and Company donated more than $3.8 million in food to food banks, youth-specific groups, homeless shelters, victims of natural disasters, organizations supporting soldiers deployed overseas, and more. And the Clif Bar Family Foundation also awarded more than 200 grants totaling $2 million to support innovative small and midsize groups working to strengthen the food system and communities, enhance public health, and safeguard the environment and natural resources. 

Sustainability Benefits Program Incentives includes a $6,500 (taxed) incentive to purchase a fuel-efficient or low-emission vehicle and a $500 incentive to purchase a commuter bike or to retrofit an existing bike to be more commuter friendly. Employees who commute by bike, on foot, or by public transportation can also earn points redeemable for up to $960 in rewards, including commuter checks, extra cash in their paycheck, Clif gear, and massages. Employees receive up to $1,000 annually to make eco-home improvements that will reduce waste and use of fossil fuels or increase the use of renewable energies.

Besides using 100 percent postconsumer recycled paper, Clif Bar provides numerous recycling and composting bins throughout its headquarters for paper, batteries, cell phones, energy-bar wrappers, and food scraps. Clif Bar’s Cool Commute program is the nation’s first employee commute-incentive program to include cash rewards for employees who purchase clean-burning biodiesel vehicles. The Cool Commute program also offers incentives to employees to buy hybrids and other low-emission vehicles, commuter bikes, and bike accessories. Employees who commute to work on foot, by bike, on public transportation, or in carpools can earn up to $960 a year in rewards for eliminating cars from their commutes. Tracked quarterly, employees earn points that can be redeemed for a variety of rewards, including commuter checks, extra cash in their paycheck, Clif gear, and massages. They can also use their points to purchase climate offsets, including NativeEnergy wind-energy credits and trees planted by American Forests, a nonprofit that protects and restores the environment by planting and caring for trees. Every Thursday morning during the company meeting, one or more employees share a quick, practical EcoMinute on ways employees can live a greener lifestyle. EcoMinute tips have included green beer-drinking options, eco-friendly holiday wrapping, and keeping warm in winter without wasting energy.

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