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Conversations with Today's Green Business Leaders

Julius Walls
Julius Walls
December 2007 — "We Bake Brownies to Hire People"
Greyston Bakery, Yonkers, NY

As a long-time member of our Green Business Network™ (almost 14 years!), Greyston Bakery has been green since before green was cool. What's more, Greyston follows both sides of the green equation, bringing both environmental and social concerns to the table when making business decisions.

It's right there in Greyston's motto, the proof that in their mode of doing business, the ultimate goal is not about money. "We don't hire people to bake brownies," says Greyston. "We bake brownies to hire people."

Green America: What does your business do?

Julius Walls: Greyston Bakery is the world’s leading baker of brownies, brownies for inclusion in ice cream, and brownies for consumers called Do-Goodie. Do-Goodie brownies are a new line of all-natural super-premium brownies that use the finest ingredients available, including cage-free eggs, pure cane sugar, and grade-A butter. Greyston’s brownies are shipped across country and around the world. We make our brownies in Yonkers, New York just north of New York City.


Have another.
It's for the public good.

What makes your company green?

Julius: Our business operates from a former brownfield (contaminated site), where we came in and performed a voluntary clean-up. Our building was cited by a national architectural association as one of the top 10 green buildings in 2004. We use a significant amount of outside/ambient light. Our for-profit business is essentially also for the public good as we are owned by a non-profit organization and all profits are used to support the community development work of our owner the Greyston Foundation -- which includes childcare for our community, affordable housing for homeless and low income families, and affordable health care for persons with HIV. We properly compensate our employees with a fair/living wage, health benefits, and direct participation in the profitability of the company. We train and promote from within, and mentor our employees, whom we source from the local community. We practice conscientiousness when making purchasing and waste disposal decisons.


What is some of the history behind the bakery?

Julius:  Greyston has been in business for 25 years. From the beginning, the founders were very conscious of their impact on their community and the world. We worked actively to minimize the negative impact and increase the positive impact. Greyston Bakery has always focused on our double bottom, considering not just our financial mission but also our social mission which for us includes, personal, environmental, and community impacts.

What have been some of the biggest challenges in maintaining a responsible business?

Julius: Most of our tough choices are taken on in working through how we will work. Once we have established a template for decisions, it is easier to make the day-to-day and even more strategic decisions. We will struggle deciding how to distribute the financial benefits of business. For example, how much goes to employees, the other work of Greyston Foundation, or the business for reinvestment?

What has been your proudest moment as a green business leader?

From brownfield to brownies.

Julius: Our proudest moment was in the completion of the new facility. Again, we took over a site that was vacant, being used as a parking lot, and made it a productive part of the community. Our impact went beyond that site. Other developers have since come into the same community and embarked upon their own clean-up projects and further development.


What is the most hopeful sign you have seen recently from the green economy? 

Julius: The volume of conversation has amped way up. With that will come more participation. In addition to the lowered cost from higher investment, we will see a better world.


What advice would you give to other green entrepreneurs just starting out? 

From the Do-Goodie wrapper.

Julius: I am glad I did not know this work is as hard as it is because I might not have proceeded. I wish I had known this work was as rewarding as it is because I might have begun sooner.

What’s the next green step you’re working on right now?

Julius: Greyston is investigating more direct involvement in a business whose business is the greening of America. I don’t know any more than that yet but we want to bring green to a larger scale.


What green product could you not live without? 

Julius: We love Seventh Generation products.

Read more interviews in the Archives »


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