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CEO pays more than double the $7.25 wage and couldn't be happier

Work two hours at the $7.25 federal minimum wage, and you still wouldn't make the lowest hourly wage at Earth Friendly Products.

It's been two years since the California-based company decided to hike its lowest rate to $17 on Earth Day — a move it says has cut voluntary turnover by nearly 50 percent. Right away, it saw productivity and morale increase — improvements that offset the higher wage. Revenue has also jumped, which has helped balance out the larger labor costs. About half of workers still make this $17 rate.

Earth Friendly Products CEO Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks at the grand opening of the flagship sustainability manufacturing facility in Cypress, CA.
Source: Earth Friendly Products
Earth Friendly Products CEO Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks at the grand opening of the flagship sustainability manufacturing facility in Cypress, CA.

The pay hike is the latest in a string of above-market wage increases at the environmentally friendly cleaning products company.

Nearly five decades ago, CEO Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks' father started the business with a mission to make affordable products that were safe for people, pets and the planet.

"He didn't want to make a green product that was for the affluent. He wanted to make a green product that was available for everyone," she said.

It currently has five manufacturing facilities throughout the U.S. to reduce its carbon footprint, and its items, which include cleaning products under the Ecos brand, are sold in more than 60 countries in a wide range of retailers, including Wal-Mart and Whole Foods.

Vlahakis-Hanks said her father set out to operate the company as a "high-road" employer that paid a living wage after he spent time in homeless shelters as a recent immigrant to the U.S.

"He had a deep level of appreciation for the amount of work that it takes for everyone to make our company a success, and so he was always ahead of the minimum wage — whether we were paying $10 or $12. We were gradually increasingly our minimum wage over time," she said.

To maintain a living wage, it routinely examines its wages and the cost of living.

In addition, employees get $2,500 toward the purchase of a hybrid or other green car, $2,000 if they choose to install solar panels and $1,000 in relocation incentives to move closer to one of its manufacturing facilities.

"We want to do everything we can to assist our employees in living the greenest life they can possible — a lifestyle that's good for their health and the health of the planet," Vlahakis-Hanks said.