Twenty-five years ago, long before being green became fashionable, CEO Gary Hirshberg's innovative business philosophy helped transform his fledgling company, Stonyfield Farm, into the world's largest organic-yogurt corporation, with annual sales exceeding $300 million.
At a major environmental conference in Boston this past April, Hirshberg gave a moving account of how, early on, he recognized that product purity must be the uncompromised standard in order for his company to be sustainable.
He told the 550 environmental leaders in attendance that he is personally troubled that '200 industrial chemicals have been found in the umbilical cord of babies' and that, 'over the past 90 years, we have been conducting a great experiment (in human health), and the early results are not too good.'
He delivered this alarming message to a highly receptive audience, but even if he had delivered it to CEOs at a business round-table meeting, his point would have had credibility and impact. First, his performance record holds peer-level respect. Second, the message comes at a tipping point when there is a growing awareness among business executives of the risks of trace toxic chemicals. Finally, it was delivered within context in an even, rational tone.