Living your values, a Q&A with Nic Jammet, co-founder of Sweetgreen

Nic Jammet co-founded Sweetgreen, the farm-to-table, fast-casual salad juggernaut, just three months out of college. The company pioneered the concept of “food that fits” — fits your values, budget, tastes, imagination, and community — and has been a force for change through a philosophy of inclusion, transparency, and sustainability.

What led you to start a company with a strong focus on impact and sustainability?

For me, it was an early belief that building a business with a deep sense of purpose would allow us to ultimately, as we scale it, have more of an impact on community, the environment, and our consumers.

Very early on I believed in this idea of conscious capitalism and that it was possible — and powerful — to have a business that could scale and grow while maintaining an internal vision that was tied to thinking about all stakeholders, not just profits.

As younger people are coming into roles of leadership, are we going to see more companies going in this direction?

I hope more and more individuals, entrepreneurs, and companies see that you can have an impact on your community and the world not just through public policy or through government — that you could actually build a private business, with the right ideals and values at the core, and have a tremendous impact.

As you’ve grown the business, how have you maintained your core values?

It was important for us early on to have a stated vision and values that we shared often — internally and externally — and to ensure that anyone we hired understood what our purpose was and what values we were going to use to execute it.

As we approached different business decisions, it was always important for us to think about the value we were creating in the long term versus the short-term profit that could be gained.

One of our core values is “think sustainably,” and obviously that doesn’t just mean around environmental stewardship and sustainable decisions. It means making decisions that will last longer than you will, thinking about the value for all stakeholders involved in the long run, and trying to be as long term–minded as possible with your decisions.

One of the things we believe in the most is transparency. We have a strong vision for what we want to create and the impact we want to have, but for us that doesn’t mean having all the answers.

Part of our approach has been around not trying to be 100% perfect, but trying to be 100% transparent, making the best decisions we can, and more importantly, sharing that with our customers and our community — sharing the “why” that went into certain decisions and ultimately how we’re going to try to continue to improve them.

Are there compromises you have to make in running your business because of the values on which you built it?

One of our core values is this idea of “win, win, win,” of creating solutions where all the stakeholders can win: our customers, the community, the environment, and the company. And so if that is the mindset that goes into making a decision, then you’re forced to think about what outcomes can you create. That’s generally how we approach decision making.

How do you think about positioning Sweetgreen to exist and thrive 20, 30, or 40 years from now?

The world is changing quickly, consumers are changing quickly, and our business is evolving faster than ever. So I think building a team of leaders that can think about moving at a certain pace and being nimble is important as we look ahead.

More from Shared Future