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“Driving social change and using business as a vehicle for that is critical for the health of the planet and health of people,” keynote speaker Kevin Cleary ’03, president and COO of Clif Bar, told attendees at Kellogg’s 11th Annual Innovating Social Change Conference.

“Driving social change and using business as a vehicle for that is critical for the health of the planet and health of people,” keynote speaker Kevin Cleary ’03, president and COO of Clif Bar, told attendees at Kellogg’s 11th Annual Innovating Social Change Conference.

Scaling what works

The 11th annual Innovating Social Change conference focuses on taking social change to the next level

By Brady Gervais

10/13/2010 - Bothered by the remnants of Clif Shot gel pockets littering the ground, a staffer at the company that produces them decided to do something about it.

 
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Without being asked, he designed new, environmentally friendly packaging that features a “litter leash,” a patented design that allows the container’s tear tab to stay attached to the packet. 

That’s the type of initiative that Emeryville, Calif.-based Clif Bar & Company values, said Kevin Cleary ’03, president and chief operating officer of the energy-and-nutrition-food company.

“Driving social change and using business as a vehicle for that is critical for the health of the planet and health of people,” said Cleary, a keynote speaker at Kellogg’s 11th Annual Innovating Social Change Conference.

The Oct. 6 conference, sponsored by Goldman Sachs, drew nearly 200 students, faculty and community members to explore the theme, “Scaling What Works: Taking Social Change to the Next Level.”

In addition to Cleary’s address, the conference also featured speakers Chris Librie, director of global sustainability at SC Johnson; Jen Field ’08, a member of the corporate engagement team at Goldman Sachs; and Bob Langert ’83, vice president of corporate social responsibility at McDonald’s. Two panels focused on scaling.

Cleary said that Clif Bar is dedicated to a healthy planet, and drives its sustainability efforts in multiple ways. The redesign of the Clif Shot packaging is just one example of how the company engages its employees to own the firm’s sustainability efforts.
 
He noted that Clif Bar considers four additional bottom lines beyond the traditional financial bottom line: brands, people, community and planet. “Every decision we make, we’re taking a look at those five things and trying to balance them,” Cleary said.

The challenge of balance and growth was addressed during the panel “Nonprofits: Scaling for Growth and Impact.”

“Often scaling doesn’t mean increasing in size but increasing in impact — being able to use the money we have more effectively and efficiently, using our staff and their own strengths more effectively and efficiently,” said Heather Smith, president of the nonprofit Rock the Vote, which engages and registers youths to vote.

The nonprofit employs 11 people, yet is the largest voter participation organizer in the country, youth or otherwise, Smith said.

Conference chair Jaime Griesgraber ’11 found the speakers inspirational.

“As I transition back to the professional world, I have greater hope that more and more companies are taking social impact to heart and realizing the benefits of considering multiple bottom lines,” Griesgraber said. “We definitely have proof that it is working in the companies at the conference, and I only hope more companies can get on board.”