by John Trybus, Managing Director

So often we think of mission in terms of nonprofit organizations. But what if more companies had social missions too? What would they be able to achieve other than monetary profit?

If Organic Valley, the nation’s largest cooperative of organic farmers, is any indication the answer is impressive social impact and the so called triple bottom line: people, planet and profit.

Today we’re exploring the role of socially mission driven companies with social strategist Theresa Marquez. She’s the chief mission executive of the uniquely structured dairy company which is comprised of 1,766 farmer-owners across 32 states.

“You might say Organic Valley was a phoenix born out of the ashes of a broken food system,” Theresa explains of the company’s start. “We wanted to be a marketing co-op that could drive change; we wanted to be on a mission right from day one and be a change agent.”

With revenue somewhere around $720 million, Organic Valley credits its mission focus as a key to the company’s success. Theresa, a self-described “child of the 60s” could not be more appreciative of her role as mission master. “I pinch myself some mornings because the mission of the co-op has been so important to me,” she says. “To be working to promote this great mission is a dream come true.”

Here’s a preview of Theresa’s thoughts on the power of mission in Organic Valley and other companies:

  • Mission focuses energy. Theresa is a firm believer that every organization – nonprofit and for profit alike – must have a mission in order to be successful. “The mission becomes the screen and a way to focus people’s energy,” she says. “I don’t see how businesses can survive and grow without that focus to help everyone stay aligned with the day-to-day activities.” She adds: “I think some of the businesses that flounder may not have missions that help their employees feel that they’re alive and working towards something [positive].”
  • Let the mission live every day through empowered ambassadors. Organic Valley believes that the farmer-owners are the star of the show, so to speak. The company has created an ambassador program and uses farmers as spokespeople as much as possible. They even equip farmers and employees with product coupons to distribute as they deem fit. “It’s part of a whole strategy to make sure that we continue to live up to the democratic model of a co-operative,” Theresa explains.  She adds: “We have to listen, we have to make sure all points of view are respected and viewed and then we have to make tough decisions. Sometimes not everyone gets there way and that’s part of democracy too.”
  • If you don’t play out of your league than you’re never going to get out of your league. Successful companies also stretch beyond comfort zones to reach a mission. Says Theresa: “When you’re a phoenix being born out of ashes, don’t tell us what we cannot do.”

On a side note, Theresa has some great personal advice worth noting: create a personal mission statement. “I get asked all the time for career advice and I always say write a personal mission for yourself and then go for it,” she says. “It’s not about money. We have to start transcending [the traditional definitions of success]”.

Listen to my interview with social strategist Theresa Marquez to learn more about the role of socially mission-driven companies.