Something I admittedly don’t consider when consuming products is whether or not the company producing them is concerned with the community or not. The last thing from my mind when I am sitting on the couch, legs tightly tucked under our red fleece blanket, and have a Ben & Jerry’s, paper towel wrapped, pint in my hand, is what types of charitable things the company does. Although, I must also admit that I do consume enough Ben & Jerry’s to be at least somewhat curious as to how sustainable the company is from a community standpoint. My most recent chocolate ice cream indulgent session left the Vermont based company lingering in my thoughts. With a business mantra like “business has a responsibility to the community and environment” (Ben & Jerry’s, 2014), it’s not surprising that Ben & Jerry’s does indeed put the community in the forefront of its model.
Ben & Jerry’s was founded in 1978 by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. The pair established an organization that grew from a foundation of wanting an open line of communication with employees in order to continue to grow their business. In continuing to do this, the company has established three main areas of focus through corporate social responsibility (CSR): use of Fair Trade Ingredients, engaging the community through community-based projects, and a number of corporate philanthropy initiatives (Ben & Jerry’s, 2014). I think Ben & Jerry’s has clearly established a culture of ethical treatment of employees, and the idea that producing quality products first begins with interacting with the consumers, which is the community as a whole.
In 2005, the company began using Fair Trade Certified Ingredients. “Fair Trade products [such as Fair Trade chocolate and coffee] are meant to solve problems associated with regulating factory and workplace conditions of companies that produce goods and services in foreign countries and import their products into their home countries. Fair Trade standards ensure that employees have good and safe working conditions, work reasonable hours and are paid a fair amount for their work” (Ben & Jerry’s, 2014). Being a part of a procedure like this reflects positively on the company and how they are seen by the public in regards to their own employee treatment. The Employee Matching Gift Program supports employee generosity by matching donations, dollar for dollar, up to $2000 annually (Ben & Jerry’s, 2014). I believe this company behavior encourages employees to continue to support other projects and organizations outside of their own. This practice demonstrates how Ben & Jerry’s core principles are deeply rooted to benefitting society and themselves overall.
Additional community related activities help to strengthen Ben & Jerry’s sustainable business practices. “The Vermont Dairy Farm Sustainability Project, which was launched by Ben & Jerry’s in 1999, sought to develop practical methods that could be used on typical dairy operations to safeguard water quality from nitrogen and phosphorus run-off, while not sacrificing the economic viability of the farm and making the farm a sustainable business” (Ben & Jerry’s, 2014); this project helps to further develop economic relationships. Ben & Jerry’s also consistently donates money to a multitude of grant associations to support its philanthropic efforts.
Learning that a company, whose products I significantly enjoy, is concerned with the benefits of its employees, the quality of the environment and the state of the community as a whole is something that resonates very well with me. The next time I sneak one of Ben & Jerry’s 46 ice cream flavors onto my mom’s grocery list, I won’t feel so badly about it. As a consumer, knowing that a company I support in turn selflessly supports the public is something that will help keep me loyal. It’s also a huge plus that Ben & Jerry’s is consistent with its flavors…I can contest for more than a few.
Ben & Jerry’s. (2014). Ben & jerr’ys corporate social responsibility. Retrieved from http://bjsocialresponsibility.weebly.com/