Although most famous for their innovative ice cream flavors (Rocky Road, Phish Food, and Cherry Garcia to name a few), Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, are equally as concerned about fulfilling their commitment to social change.
The international company began its journey in Burlington, Vermont in 1978. Socially conscious from the start, Ben and Jerry, opened their first scoop shop in a renovated gas station. As they began to expand their business, Ben and Jerry struggled to face the fact that they were becoming “business people,” and they feared that by undergoing this transformation into a larger company they would end up embodying negative business practices such as pollution and unfair treatment of employees. For a brief period, the two considered shutting down. But in the end the pair took a different and more innovative approach. They decided to pursue business growth based on a redefined goal of business. In contrast to the traditional business model of profit maximization, Ben and Jerry decided to adopt a 2-part bottom line based on both profit and giving back to the community.
In 1985 they established Ben and Jerry’s Foundation, which awards grants to grassroots nonprofit organizations through the US “which facilitate progressive social change by addressing the underlying conditions of societal and environmental problems.” In addition to this, Ben and Jerry believe in using the voice of business to promote social change, so Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream uses their popularity to raise awareness about social issues. Past collaborations have included the World Wildlife Fund and Rock the Vote and they have named ice creams to promote such social issue causes as fair trade and sustainability.
The story of Ben and Jerry raises many questions related GES. The company is an example of a for profit company that at the same time seriously pursues social change, and whose ideals are closely aligned with those of GES, even though it is very different from the typical non profit organizations that we associate with engagement.