“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.
Beyond their delicious array of ice cream flavors, the company is dedicated to fostering positive social change and environmental stewardship. Their commitment to various initiatives reflects their belief in human rights, social justice, and environmental sustainability.
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.
In this article, we will dive into the mission and impact of Ben and Jerry’s. You’ll learn why they aren’t just an incredible ice cream brand but a purposeful powerhouse!
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 capitalism 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, demonstrating their high corporate social responsibility standards. Conscious culture makes this socially responsible company so trustworthy and easy to love!
Ben and Jerry’s Activism Initiatives
Upholding Human Rights & Dignity
At the heart of Ben & Jerry’s ethos lies a dedication to honoring the fundamental rights of all individuals. They advocate for liberty, security, self-esteem, freedom of expression and protest. The company firmly believes in providing opportunities for people to thrive while contributing meaningfully to society.
Advocating for Social & Economic Justice
Ben & Jerry’s actively works towards achieving equity, opportunity, and justice for historically marginalized communities worldwide. They recognize that fostering fair livelihoods is essential for flourishing individuals, families, and communities. Their initiatives are centered on creating pathways for empowerment and ensuring that everyone has equal access to resources and opportunities.
Collaborative Impact with Greyston Bakery
One of Ben & Jerry’s notable initiatives is their collaboration with Greyston Bakery, an organization that provides employment opportunities to individuals facing barriers to employment. This partnership ensures high-quality brownies in many of Ben & Jerry’s flavors and creates social impact by offering job opportunities and skill-building programs to underserved communities.
Environmental Protection & Regeneration
The company is committed to positively impacting the environment. Ben & Jerry’s aims to restore degraded natural environments while fostering increased diversity and abundance of ecosystems. They prioritize sustainability across their supply chain, striving to minimize their environmental footprint and championing practices that promote regeneration.
Racial Justice and Fair Trade Advocacy
Ben & Jerry’s actively engages in racial justice and fair trade issues. They amplify their message and initiatives through their various marketing channels, including social media, paid advertising, emails, and influencer partnerships. Their social media presence is particularly impactful, with campaigns, stories, and posts highlighting their commitment to these causes, encouraging dialogue, and advocating for change.
Impact in Communication Channels
Ben & Jerry’s effectively utilize their social media platforms to engage with their audience and spread awareness about social and environmental issues. They employ storytelling, interactive content, and partnerships with influential figures like Ava DuVernay, to reach a wider audience and inspire action.
Collaborate for Greater Impact
At ChuckJoe, we are passionate about supporting conscious capitalism and businesses like Ben & Jerry’s in expanding their impact. We offer innovative solutions and strategic partnerships to help conscious companies grow their influence, maximize their social impact, and drive meaningful change.
Join hands with us to empower conscious businesses and drive positive change in the world.
As Ben & Jerry’s continues to set the standard for ethical business practices, their commitment to conscious capitalism remains an inspiration for companies worldwide. Through their unwavering dedication to social responsibility, they not only produce delectable ice cream but also serve as a beacon for driving societal and environmental change.
For more ethically and socially responsible companies, read our ChuckJoe blog on Patagonia!