Sustainability | March 2013 | By Carrie Schmeck

When Burritos and Cotton Collide

Food and fashion seem odd bedfellows, but Chipotle is using such a partnership to promote environmental stewardship.

Chipotle teamed up with a sustainable clothing company on its uniforms.
Chipotle teamed up with sustainable clothing company Loomstate to create organic uniforms for its employees. Chipotle
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Chipotle’s commitment to organic cotton might not be apparent to diners, but every employee wears the evidence—literally.

One hundred percent of Chipotle’s employees wear uniforms from Loomstate, a company dedicated to offering sustainable, organic, and quality clothing. The initiative kicked off in 2010, and the restaurant recently began offering a public line of Chipotle-branded, 100 percent organic cotton Loomstate apparel through its Web store.

Chipotle chose to partner with Loomstate because the company shares some of Chipotle’s strongest values, says Kirsten Helgeland, director of marketing operations for the Mexican fast casual. The fact that sustainability and environmental awareness also make a social statement is “really a byproduct of our brand message [and] our commitment to high-quality products,” she says.

Creating awareness that the conventional cotton industry uses more synthetic chemicals to kill pests and insects than any other agricultural crop industry in the world isn’t Chipotle’s primary aim, Helgeland says. Rather, making this partnership public helps spark important conversations. “We’re doing this because we care, but if we do it in the right ways, whether or not [customers] care, we’re giving an opportunity for them to learn,” she says.

The blend of food and cotton might seem random, but Loomstate founder and CEO Scott Mackinlay Hahn says it makes perfect sense. “Fashion is deeply connected to food,” he says. For instance, organic cottonseed from crops can be used to feed milk and meat cows, which ultimately supply the food chain, he says.

Helgeland says adding a social core to a restaurant brand starts with a conversation about what the concept values. “Companies need to ask themselves where they can make shifts and then set good examples that reflect those values,” she says.