Ben and Jerry’s was founded in 1978 and in 1985, they offered their employees stock and decided to contribute 7.5% to a foundation. They created a business that wanted to do more than just make great ice cream. Their mission statement is: To make the world’s best ice cream, have sustainable financial growth and to make the world a better place (Gelles, D. (2015)).
Ben and Jerry’s although they were acquired by Unilever in 2000, they have never strayed from their original mission statement. They strive to make sure they have the best ingredients in their ice cream by using fair trade ingredients. They pushed to support labeling when food was made with non-GMO ingredients (Ben & Jerry’s Corporate Social Responsibility. (n.d.)). Their eggs are cage-free and they even set up a program for their dairy farmers to continuously improve sustainable agricultural practices on their farms. It is a voluntary program, but Ben & Jerry’s will compensate those who participate in the Caring Dairy program (Caring Dairy | Ben & Jerry’s. (n.d.)).
Social Responsibility goes further than sourcing better ingredients, its also about their employees and the community. Unfortunately, when they were acquired by Unilever, they did have to lay off about 100 employees when before that, they hardly fired anyone (Gelles, D. (2015)). But Ben and Jerry’s has built and funded many Grant programs, built “the Foundation” for its employees and pushed for social responsibility programs (Ben & Jerry’s Corporate Social Responsibility. (n.d.)). Ben and Jerry’s has donated 1.8 million dollars annually to The Foundation in grants to organizations who qualify around Vermont and in America. There is also a matching program up to $2000 a year to encourage employees to donate to any cause they feel necessary (Ben & Jerry’s Corporate Social Responsibility. (n.d.)).
The company has also been involved in many social causes like rock the vote in 2004, drilling is not the answer, leaving no child behind, truth or clone with cloning food (Causes Ben & Jerry’s (n.d.)). Since reducing a company’s carbon footprint is the next big movement for socially responsible companies. The Dairy industry produces a lot of methane from the manure with the animals. They worked with Native Energy to create a way to help separate the solid manure, then dry it and turn into bedding for the cows. This helps the farmers spend less money on the bedding and it reduces the methane that would get into the atmosphere (Cooper, J. (2019)).
In 2015, many migrant workers who work on Ben and Jerry’s dairy suppliers farms had been seeking better treatment. Using the momentum of other farming industries push to treat workers better, there was a protest outside of Ben and Jerry’s headquarters requesting that they create a code of conduct that they would require their farmers to follow. This code of conduct would result in seven days vacation days a year, improved housing and one day a week off. Wages for workers on farms are below the national average for hourly workers and this movement would in return help improve their wages. An organization Migrant Justice who was behind organizing the protest was able to sign an agreement to create the code of conduct with Ben and Jerry’s. They sought to create better standards for the workers because you are only as good as your worst supplier. Although this will not be a quick fix, the workers do see hope with the code of conduct and Milk with Dignity standards (Greenhouse, S. (2017)).
Personally I feel that even with the acquisition, Ben and Jerry’s has done everything they can do within their power to push for social goodness. Unilever agreed to allow Ben and Jerry’s to run almost as its own company, they have an external board with Ben and Jerry employees to prevent “middle management” to change their social initiatives and with the right to sue Unilever if needed. They became a b corp, pay more than double minimum wage for their employees, and recently launched a flavor to raise awareness for climate change (Gelles, D. (2015)). They are not a company that I feel is “green” for the profit but will continue to push for supporting social change and the environment.
Gelles, D. (2015, August 21). How the Social Mission of Ben & Jerry’s Survived Being Gobbled Up. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/23/business/how-ben-jerrys-social-mission-survived-being-gobbled-up.html
Greenhouse, S. (2017, December 21). Farm Labor Groups Make Progress on Wages and Working Conditions. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/04/business/economy/farm-labor-groups-make-progress-on-wages-and-working-conditions.html?module=inline
Cooper, J. (2019, January 17). Ben & Jerry’s Social Responsibility | NativeEnergy – Reducing Carbon Emissions. Retrieved from https://nativeenergy.com/2017/11/ben-jerrys-success-story/
Caring Dairy | Ben & Jerry’s. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.benjerry.com/caringdairy
Causes Ben & Jerry’s has advocated for over the years with their corporate social responsibility | Ben & Jerry’s. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.benjerry.com/whats-new/2014/corporate-social-responsibility-history
Ben & Jerry’s Corporate Social Responsibility. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://bjsocialresponsibility.weebly.com/