Marketing and Comms
The 'CVS Effect' in Action:
Lessons from Chipotle's #BurritosNotBullets CSR Win

After a bruising shareholder vote-down on executive pay last week, Chipotle Mexican Grill sure needed a win.

It got one, courtesy of some loaded semi-automatic weapons and some pissed-off moms. In a May 19 statement, the company asked customers not to bring guns into Chipotle restaurants.

This is another great example of what I’m calling the “CVS Effect” — the growing trend of companies doing the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do.

Every time a major brand, retailer or company speaks up or takes positive steps for their customers’ well-being, health and the environment, they create a little more safe ground for others to follow their lead.

Here’s how Chipotle’s win came about.

Last weekend, open-carry gun rights advocates in Dallas, Texas displayed their guns at a Chipotle restaurant, and then posted the photos on social media.

That’s when the gun-control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America decided to, well, demand action.

Moms Demand Action launched a viral campaign, #BurritosNotBullets, and a petition, asking Chipotle to ban guns from its restaurants.

Just two days later, on May 19, Chipotle responded by asking customers not to bring guns into their restaurants.

In doing, so, the company’s leadership responded quickly to parents and advocates who are working for sensible, eminently reasonable gun control laws as a public health and safety imperative.

Moms Demand ActionI see several “what went right” lessons for other leading brands to follow:

  • Listen to your customers: The Chipotle social media team was paying attention to customer issues, on a Saturday.
  • Commit to quick response: Chipotle’s leadership team responded in just over 48 hours.
  • Assess risk, but act: Chipotle did risk alienating some customers, but it was a good bet to make. This last one is worth unpacking for the bigger picture.

First, Chipotle had 10,000 petition signatures and a Twitter storm to back up a “please, no guns” statement.

Second, coming out on the side of moms and families fits with Chipotle’s “Food With Integrity” positioning that prioritizes serving its customers healthy food in ways that also support farmers, the environment, and animal welfare issues.

Fourth, just three months ago, a Chipotle customer in Utah accidently discharged his concealed handgun inside the restaurant, narrowly missing nearby diners. The man was not cited.

Fifth, it’s worth remembering too that, besides being the right thing to do, good CSR action is good business. From a cold-hard-cash perspective, there are a lot of moms (and dads and caretakers and aunties) who like taking their young ones to Chipotle to eat a burrito in peace.

And finally, I wonder if Chipotle leaders are looking ahead and seeing increasing public support for more actions that support public health and public safety.

Together, these reasons all add up to support Chipotle’s “please, no guns” position, but honestly, the brand didn’t need them. Putting them all aside, there’s no good reason, of any kind, ever, to bring a loaded semi-automatic weapon into a public dining establishment.

Chipotle deserves this CSR win, which comes with a ton of free good publicity and hopefully a bump in sales, because its leadership team acted quickly and unequivocally to do the right thing.

That’s a smart business model for others to follow.

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