Ben & Jerry’s is a great example of a company that has paved the way for using business to effect positive social change. Their mission statement:
To make, distribute & sell the finest quality all natural ice cream & euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment.
To operate the Company on a sustainable financial basis of profitable growth, increasing value for our stakeholders & expanding opportunities for development and career growth for our employees.
To operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally & internationally.
With their success, Ben & Jerry’s has proven that consumers are eager to purchase products that are aligned with their values. From strict recycling rules to the employee-driven Green Team, Ben & Jerry’s has earned the respect of consumers by walking their talk. “Business is the most powerful force in society,” Ben Cohen says. “It has the highest potential for solving social problems. Once consumers saw examples of prosperous companies integrating social concerns into their business practices, they were emboldened to demand the same of other businesses. Businesses could no longer say it was impossible.”
Other initiatives of Ben & Jerry’s are the Ben & Jerry Foundation which seeks to empower Ben & Jerry’s employees in environmental and social problems efforts, 1% For Peace, a nonprofit initiative that works to redirect 1% of the national defense budget to fund pace-promoting project and activities (see Love, Peace and Ice cream and 50 Ways to Support Peace). In addition Ben & Jerry’s works at other social and environmental issues such as no animal cloning, small scale family farms, redirect federal spending to children, etc.
In 2000 Ben & Jerry’s joined forces with Unilever, but still operates separately from Unilever. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s, said: “Neither of us could have anticipated, twenty years ago, that a major multinational would some day sign on, enthusiastically, to pursue and expand the social mission that continues to be an essential part of Ben & Jerry’s and a driving force behind our many successes. But today, Unilever has done just that. While we and others certainly would have preferred to pursue our mission as an independent enterprise, we hope that, as part of Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s will continue to expand its role in society.”
Unilever itself has also become a strong force in sustainability and social responsibility. One example is in 2000 Hindustan Unilever, Unilever’s $3.9 billion subsidiary in India, launched the Shakti Entrepreneurship Program, which today employs between 60,000 and 70,000 women entrepreneurs in villages to sell Unilever products at affordable prices to the base of the pyramid. For the first time, villagers had access to soap, detergent, and toothpaste. What’s more, the women entrepreneurs were actually educating their communities on hygiene issues while selling their products. For more information on Unilever’s social responsibility visit http://www.unilever.com.
Ben and Jerry’s wins big in the ice cream business. They are arguably the most recognized ice cream brand in the country. For 2009, Ben & Jerry’s revenue was between $200 million and $500 million.
GIVING IS WINNING: BEN & JERRY’S