“Business has the responsibility to give back to its community.”
By now you must know that Ben & Jerry’s is more than just a groovy ice cream company. Although with psychedelic flavors like Cherry Garcia (named after Jerry Garcia from The Grateful Dead), or Phish Food, and their latest creation “Netflix and Chill’d,” the great deeds of the company may not be completely obvious to the average consumer.
Back in the early ’80s when CSR (corporate social responsibility) was still on the rise, Ben Cohen dubbed the phrase, “Caring Capitalism.” Both Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield remain local Vermont and global heroes for their outstanding community activism. They’ve become an inspiration for many businesses striving to become more socially responsible over the past four decades. Fun Fact: The chunky style of ice cream originates from Cohen’s need for texture due to his anosmia (the loss of ability to detect smells). How lucky for us Chunky Monkey and Half Baked ice cream fans out there who love gobs of chocolate and fudge chunks! Not too shabby for a solid branding differentiator either.
Since 1985, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation has funded 7.5% of its annual pre-tax profits to community organizations across the country. That amounts to 1.8 million dollars annually, not including the hundreds of thousands of dollars they’ve donated to progressive causes over the years such as racial justice, climate change, peacebuilding, and more.
You may be wondering how this ice cream company became one of the best social impact companies in the world. Is it because of their give-back model to charitable causes? Or is it because they take a public stand on progressive social and environmental justice issues? Perhaps it’s the sustainable way that they make and package their ice cream? The answer is yes to all of the above! Ben & Jerry’s three-part product, economic, and social mission combined with their linked prosperityconcept is an exemplary model for conscious capitalism done right.
Above and Beyond The 4 Tenets of Conscious Capitalism
1. Higher Purpose
It’s unquestionable that Cohen and Greenfield weren’t just in the company for a profit. They clearly defined conscious objectives in their company mission that they continue to focus on to this day. Since 1989, the company has shared yearly social performance highlights of their achievements as well as improvements that they’re still striving to make. They provide accountability through yearly SEAR Reports (social & environmental assessment) on their website that showcase their three-year plan, activism campaigns, social equity performance, environmental performance, etc. The activist company has made significant efforts to support “grassroots activism and community organizing for social and environmental justice around the country.” Many of their special edition flavors revolve around creative awareness campaigns such as Justice Remix’d and Pecan Resist.
2. Stakeholder Orientation
“The mission of the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation is to engage Ben & Jerry’s employees in philanthropy and social change work; to give back to our Vermont communities; and to support grassroots activism and community organizing for social and environmental justice around the country.”
Ben & Jerry’s entire ecosystem of stakeholders is very much involved (if you couldn’t already tell by their mission statement)! Their conscious approach for philanthropy empowers Ben & Jerry’s employees to make decisions on progressive issues by serving on Community Action Teams and Employee Grantmaking Committees. They also believe that people who are most affected by the problems are in the best position to determine how to use the grants for solutions. Under a unique acquisition agreement, Ben & Jerry’s is also one of the only Unilever brands that has an independent board of directors to preserve and expand their social mission. Whoa, talk about a full circle!
3. Conscious Leadership
Without a doubt, Cohen and Greenfield were “caring” and conscious leaders from the start. The co-founders remain involved with the company and continue to make appearances at activism campaigns. An important aspect of conscious leadership is the focus on we, rather than me. The 2018 SEAR Report includes a letter from CEO, Matthew McCarthy, who speaks from a grateful and motivational standpoint. He mentions, “we at Ben & Jerry’s must raise our ambitions, double our efforts and amplify our positive impact around the world in new ways.” It looks like the company continues to be in good hands!
4. Conscious Culture
How a company practices and applies its values should increase trust for employees and consumers.A few of the company’s best traits are its integrity, accountability, fairness, and transparency! You can see their entire ice cream making process from the farm, to the factory, and its destination on their website. They’re also certified Fair Trade and B Corp which demonstrates their high standards for corporate social responsibility. Conscious culture is what makes this socially responsible company so trustworthy and easy to love!
For more ethically and socially responsible companies, read our ChuckJoe blog on Patagonia!