"It’s one thing to say we’re trying to get better, another thing to demonstrate that you are getting better," says Brian Niccol. Chipotle

Brian Niccol is passionate about using the opportunity he has as CEO of Chipotle to make a deep and lasting difference in the lives of the people his company touches, and he punctuates his conversation with us with examples of those personal connections.

“We can make a really positive impact on climate, people, animals, farms – it just rolls on and on,” Brian shares in this exclusive interview with Chris Benguhe for our Social Capital section. “It’s such a simple idea, but not everybody’s ready to spend the time or the resources — like upcycling an avocado pit into clothing … I think it’s as important to do these little chips on things as it is that we achieved our goal of 51% waste diversion.”

That “people focus” is woven into the incredible success of his company — a success he is especially asked about for this past year by other business owners. “Most people want to talk to me about our digital business and the success we’ve had there — the success that we’ve had with a lot of our innovation of late,” he says, but notes that a big differentiator with Chipotle is all the restaurants are company owned, no franchises. “A lot of folks are in franchises, where they don’t really run restaurants. They are managing the brand and the menu, but they’re not managing the organization of people that we are. And I think that might be why the conversation goes more towards what are you doing from a brand strategy standpoint than what’s happening with how you’re investing in your people.”

In fact, he emphasizes that people are key, and corporations are only as good as the people they can attract and retain–and the culture is foundational for that, as it defines the brand that people either “want to be a part of it or they don’t.”

Espousing the view that one of his biggest jobs as CEO is keeping the company’s values and culture rolling, Brian says, “We’ll hire the right people to get the execution, but the more I can champion the purpose and the values, the better I think our culture will be.”

It’s the examples Brian shares throughout his conversation that move these statements from platitudes to realities we can connect with on a personal level. As he says, “It’s one thing to say we’re trying to get better, another thing to demonstrate that you are getting better.

“Whether it’s our employees talking about the work we’re doing with a young farmer, or helping a farm move to regenerative farming or organic soils, it lights up our employee because they get excited about the food and our company at another level. I think it excites our customers when they start to discover we really are trying to make ‘food fast’ done differently.“

Brian’s conversation is full of powerful, real-life examples that will leave you admiring him as much as we do. It’s an uplifting ride — click on the video link below to enjoy it with us.

Editor’s Note: Brian Niccol refers to raising money for the Wampler family. The actual amount raised by Chipotle’s “Round Up” program was around $200,000 — double the amount the nonprofit had anticipated.