Chipotle Closing on Thanksgiving Demonstrates Commitment to Conscious Capitalism


"We will be closed on Thanksgiving Day so our employees can celebrate with their families. We wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday."

So reads an update on Chipotle Mexican Grill's LinkedIn page prior to Thanksgiving Day. Most of Chipotle's 1,539 locations were closed yesterday, allowing employees to spend time with friends and families for the Thanksgiving holiday. This goes in line with Chipotle's practice of closing its doors on major holidays including Christmas, New Years Day, Easter, and July 4th.

Chipotle continues to demonstrate its viability as a pioneer of conscious capitalism, bringing a fresh (literally) approach to how business is practiced. Conscious capitalism, a movement spearheaded by Whole Foods Markets' co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey, encourages business and corporate leaders to consider how their actions impact not only financial profit, but people and the planet as well. Between profit, people, and planet, the Triple Bottom Line is formed.

The Triple Bottom Line, like conscious capitalism, holds that there is more at stake for a business than solely financial profit. Rather, other stakeholders and elements -- people (employees, community members, etc.), planet (environmental sustainability), and profit (financial efficiency and profit) -- should all be included in a company's definition of success.

Chipotle's seemingly simple action of giving employees a day off on holidays is a deviation from the norm of some restaurant chains. Cracker Barrel , Steak 'n Shake, Golden Corral, Denny's , and some Taco Bell and McDonald's locations were open for most of Thanksgiving Day. Chipotle's practice of giving employees a day off on major holidays demonstrates its commitment to the People portion of the Triple Bottom Line.

Chipotle's Food With Integrity campaign remains an integral component of the company's business. Chipotle finds local suppliers for fresh produce whenever possible, purchases "responsibly raised" meat, and works to eliminate genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from its menu while disclosing which foods still have GMO ingredients. Chipotle's problem has been finding enough suppliers who meet the criteria for fresh, local, and humanely raised meat and produce. Chipotle continues to expand its focus on the Planet component of the Triple Bottom Line, and has been rewarded with a growing customer fan base in part due to this commitment.

Combining profit, people, and planet into a company's mission statement is easier said than done, and actually practicing and improving upon those commitments is an entire other challenge. However, Chipotle has managed to integrate these various components together while maintaining a solid financial bottom line. So far this year Chipotle's profit margin stands at 10.45%, with 14.39% earnings growth year-over-year from 2012. Chipotle remains debt-free with $308.08 million in cash.

Consumers obviously have a great deal of influence over the success (or lack thereof) of a business. Don't like how a business treats its employees? Well, to start, try to reward businesses who do treat their employees at a higher standard. Maybe spend some more time with friends and family rather than hitting the stores Thanksgiving evening. We should also remember that as investors we have an influence in the success and operations of a business.

Our actions speak louder than words whether as individuals, consumers, investors, and business-owners, or a combination of all four. It is up to us to act in a manner consistent with the world we want to see. Some companies, such as Chipotle, are taking initiative to consciously improve the world in a way that is profitable for people, the planet, and financially. When evaluating businesses as prospective investments, investors should identify what matters to them in their selection process -- whether it is solely financial profit or a more expanded criteria -- because we are in a world where these factors are not as compartmentalized and detached as they may have once been.

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Fool contributor David Kretzmann owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill. The Motley Fool recommends Chipotle Mexican Grill and McDonald's. The Motley Fool owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill and McDonald's. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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