Greyston Bakery's Secret Ingredient to Growth: Hire the Unemployable
In a state of the art factory in Yonkers, New York, Greyston Bakery bakes over 35,000 pounds of premium brownies a day for prestigious customers like Ben & Jerry’s and Whole Foods Market. However, Greyston’s top priority is neither the product nor their profit, it’s their people.
B-Corp Greyston Bakery doesn’t hire people to bake brownies; it bakes brownies to hire people.
From their start in 1982, founder Bernie Glassman sought to tackle poverty by creating an Open Hiring™ policy. Anyone can work for Greyston, as long they are 18 and a U.S. citizen.
“There is no filtering process,” said Kerry Sesil, Greyston Marketing Coordinator. “There’s no resume, interview, or background check.”
With more than 80 bakers, most were hired this way. And if they weren’t working at Greyston, they’d likely be unemployed. Most are ex-felons, recovering addicts, or homeless.
Society has labeled them “unhirable.”
Not Greyston. After 35 years of Open Hiring™, there hasn’t been any instances of crime or violence in the workplace. The employees are hardworking, grateful, and extremely loyal.
But ending the cycle of poverty isn’t as simple as handing out jobs.
“We believe that people need more than a job to succeed. If you have a job, but you don’t have a place for your child to be safe and secure, how can you keep the job?” Sesil said.
Greyston answered this challenge by offering childcare services, but it doesn’t end there. Greyston set up a wide range of community programs—referred to as PathMaking—to tackle the hardships that their employees face. This includes affordable housing, ESL courses, community gardens, counseling services for addiction and abuse, and many more.
Anyone in Yonkers can participate in PathMaking programs. Greyston serves over 2,500 community members annual, and every year, that number grows.
In a 2015 TED talk, CEO Mike Brady issued a challenge to Fortune 500 companies. If each company chooses one vendor that develops the Open Hiring™ model, in ten years, 100,000 jobs would be created for the seemingly unemployable and $750M would be returned to local economies.
Mike Brady added, “That’s my challenge. Pick up the phone and call me, and I’ll help you.”
Did anyone call Brady?
“People are interested,” Sesil said, “but they’re nervous.”
To guide companies on how to implement Open Hiring™, Greyston will launch an Open Hiring™ Incubator. It will help companies of all sizes set up a hiring program and teach them how to further invest in those employees.
In spite of their success, Sesil explained that Greyston is not expanding to other cities.
“Brady’s point is that it shouldn’t just be Greyston doing this.” They believe any company can be taught to do what they’ve done. “You start with one, two employees, and go from there.”
In addition to launching the Incubator, Greyston is always looking to expand their reach.
Greyston just announced a new partnership with Delta Airlines, proving competitive business goals do not need to be compromised for a company to be community driven.
For over thirty years, Greyston has baked the brownies found in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. This partnership started when the two companies’ founding CEOs met and realized they had very similar ideas of how a business should be run. That was in 1988.
This exemplifies how the B Corp community works together to nurture better business.
Greyston also connected with the Green Mountain Energy, who donated the solar panels that Greyston uses to create their brownies with clean energy. Greyston’s partnerships are just one example of how being a B Corp has proven to be valuable.
Sesil says that one of the biggest benefits Greyston has gained from their B Corp certification is accountability: “We’re being held accountable to improve and leverage what others are doing.”
She added that some of Greyston’s community outreach programs were inspired by Ben & Jerry’s and that she feels that the entire B Corp community is willing, and excited, to share their best practices.
Greyston’s Open Hiring™ embodies what B Corps are trying to teach the business world: Successful for-profit companies can serve their communities and uphold their values without compromising the quality of their products.