There was good reason for Steve Rich’s interview with Profile being delayed. In January 2023, Rich was promoted to vice president of legal and regulatory at Amy’s Kitchen where the lawyer has been in-house since 2016.
There’s also a good reason for the promotion: Rich believes in Amy’s Kitchen, the mission of the organization to make it easy and enjoyable for everyone to eat well, and the company’s desire to do it all while actively improving the environment.
“At the heart of Amy’s Kitchen, it’s about taking care of our people and the planet,” Rich explains. “It’s not about trying to limit harm to the planet—we want to heal it. And that’s why we’re very passionate about doing what’s right for our employees and the world they live in.”
Rich is especially proud of his work in helping Amy’s achieve B Corp certification in 2020, a designation demonstrating a business’s verified and exceptional history of high social and environmental performance, along with a whole host of other commitments.
Achieving certification is no walk in the park. Rich says pursuing B Corp certification required Amy’s, in addition to meeting rigorous social and environmental standards, to convert itself from a traditional corporation to a benefit corporation.
“That means amending our governing documents, or our corporate DNA, to make it clear that our business is purpose-driven,” Rich explains. “In addition to a profit incentive, we also consider the impact of all of our decisions on our employees, our consumers, our customers, our suppliers, and the environment.”
Whether it’s a decision to introduce a new product or open a new plant, Rich says the company is now required to take its impact on the community and the environment into heavy consideration. There are lots of companies making these claims, but Amy’s has literally embedded that commitment into its very foundation. Rich says as a certified B Corp, Amy’s is part of a global movement using business as a force for good.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rich says the company truly earned its reputation.
“Before there were any local mandates being enforced, we moved quickly to take care of our people and their families,” Rich explains. “We secured thousands of masks for our employees and took many other precautions to mitigate risk.”
Most notable, perhaps, is the vaccine clinic Amy’s Kitchen was able to open directly across the street from its Santa Rosa, California plant.
“We made it as easy as possible for our people as we could, and it resulted in over 90 percent of our workforce getting vaccinated,” Rich says. “My colleague [Associate General Counsel] Jen Thomas played a huge part in spearheading this effort.”
That focus on safety has remained a focal point for Rich. The Santa Rosa, California-plant safety rate is twice as good as the industry standard, but Rich says that one accident is one too many, and the company will never stop working on improvements.
It’s the mission and pride of Amy’s Kitchen that lured Rich away from private practice in the first place. Rich had a long and successful career in private practice, spending eighteen years as a litigator at two large law firms. It was at his second law firm, Mayer Brown, where he began primarily representing food and beverage companies, including Amy’s Kitchen.
“What drew me to join Amy’s was a huge sense of pride in the company’s core values and its amazing products,” Rich explains. “This was a company that began with a single organic pot pie in 1987, and now is the national leader in organic and vegetarian frozen foods. The story is incredible.”
Today, Amy’s offers 135 different organic frozen and dry convenience products and a number of gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan options in the US and nearly a dozen countries around the world.
Amy’s food may travel around the globe, but in taking the in-house role in 2016, Rich was determined not to uproot his twin daughters who were in high school at the time. He’d commute to Northern California once a month to spend a week at company headquarters in Petaluma, California, and would work from home back in Los Angeles the remainder of the time. That taxing schedule went on until his daughters graduated from high school, after which time Rich and his wife moved to Santa Rosa.
It’s a small but important detail that illustrates Rich’s commitment to the people around him. The lawyer repeatedly calls out those on his team, including Thomas, Senior Corporate Counsel Ashley Park, Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs John O’Keeffe, and Director of Risk and Safety Steve Myers.
“I really do just see my promotion as a reflection of the team around me,” Rich explains. “I’m passionate about empowering my team to do great things for the business and fueling their success. We’re a small team that works with limited resources to make a large number of decisions every day. I’m always amazed at how much we’re able to accomplish for our people, consumers, and planet—and contribute to the incredible growth of the company.”
Mayer Brown LLP: “We at Mayer Brown congratulate Steve Rich on this well-deserved acknowledgment of his contributions to Amy’s mission of making it easy and enjoyable for everyone to eat well. Mayer Brown is proud to serve as outside legal counsel for Steve and his team.”
–Paul de Bernier, Partner