Ben & Jerry’s

Heroes of Ice-cream, Hungry for Justice

Thursday 29 September 2011, by David Leal Alonso, Gonzalo-alfonso Navarro Hernandez, Robert Bos, Simon Jakob Worlund

21 inspired

A) The main facts about the activities of the company.

Ben & Jerry’s is an American ice cream company, a division of the British-Dutch Unilever conglomerate, that manufactures ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, and ice cream novelty products, manufactured by Ben & Jerry’s in South Burlington, Vermont, United States, with the main factory in Waterbury. It is best known as an ice cream brand, founded in 1978 in Burlington, Vermont by Ben Cohan and Jerry Greenfield. Since the start of the business one of its main goals has been to use the resources of the company to make this world a better place. Their ice-cream is known around the world and considered to be the best available. Besides this, Ben and Jerry?s CSR department is one of the finest and most celebrated in the world, often providing revolutionary ideas and innovations to achieve a better society. Its strong corporate culture towards corporate social responsibility is recognized world-wide to be an example for every business. Ben & Jerry’s is currently organized as an autonomous subsidiary of Unilever, which has dozens of subsidiaries worldwide. Prior to the year 2000, Ben & Jerry’s had 1,200 employees. In the year 2000, Ben & Jerry’s became a wholly owned autonomous subsidiary of Unilever N.V., a Dutch corporation. Following the acquisition, Ben & Jerry’s in early 2003, shutdown both its Springfield, Vermont manufacturing facility and its Bellows Falls, Vermont distribution center.

B) Ethical Challenges this company is addressing.

Ben & Jerry?s three main global social mission goals are divided into the following three categories, with several more focused subcategories:

1) Use the company to further the cause of peace and justice in the world
2) Make ice-cream that is aligned with the company values
3) Take the lead promoting global sustainable dairy practices

As an example for the first goal stands the companies committed effort to only buying Fair Trade products and also teaming up with local Fair Trade groups all over the world. Through this commitment Ben & Jerry?s can affect the situation for many of its suppliers of basic commodities. Another example is the Ben & Jerry?s Foundation that aims to support development of social and economic justice on grassroots activists trying to change things in their local communities all around the United States.
The people at Ben & Jerry?s are also aware of the environmental impact of its business and are therefore also involved in a number of projects aimed to minimize the impact on environment. Projects such as cage-free eggs, sustainable packages, greenhouse gas emission reduction, and the transition to energy efficient hydrocarbon freezers are among the several projects the company at the moment is working on.
The third goal of the company is to use its influence to promote more sustainable dairy practices globally. More specifically this devotion has contributed to close relations to dairy farmers all over the world, in an effort to make the process of dairy production more sustainable both from the producers and the end-users perspective. Ben & Jerry?s commitment to fighting the use of genetically engineered animals in the U.S. food supply.

C) What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it.

The reasons why we believe in the true ethical way of doing business by Ben & Jerry?s are numeral. First and foremost we believe in the sincere ethical culture that strives within the company. Profits are important but it has always been a priority to do so in a sustainable way in a number of areas. To quote their mission statement ?to operate the Company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business play in society?. They are very aware of the influence they have and try to use this power in a positive way. This culture was and is still imposed by the two founders of the company. For example Ben Cohen once said ?Business has a responsibility?. And so is therefore embedded in the common mindset of the employees. Secondly, we would like to refer to the numerous prices they have won for their ethical behavior. As a consumer this is one of the best ways to evaluate the promises made by a company. For example they won the Martin Luther King Center’s Annual Salute to Greatness Award. The price was awarded to Ben, Jerry, and Ben & Jerry’s as a company for using their power as a business to do good in the world. Thirdly, a case study by Harvard proves with qualitative research that the ethical standards of Ben & Jerry?s are not only preached but practiced as well. Several studies have shown that their goals on employee development, environmental and social issues are achieved. Finally we would like to bring forward the argument of money. An argument we believe, is of the single most importance in modern day business. It is clear that Ben & Jerry?s is investing a lot in CSR, more that according to economic rational would be optimal. This continuous set of investments in revolutionary ways of conducting business is the final reason why we believe that Ben & Jerry?s is a true agent of ?caring capitalism?.

D) The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

Ben & Jerry?s is facing tough future challenges. By being part of the Uniliver group, it has the risk of being absorbed by its corporate culture, losing its unique values and way of thinking. When trying to enter new markets in developing countries they will have problems to enter a cost-price competition, having to differentiate their product and finding a niche market. They have to expand their brand name, which is barely known outside the US and Europe. Another challenge they will face is to continue addressing a 7.5% of their profits to charity in a much more competitive economic environment. They will face big problems to balance between profit maximization and fulfilling their social agenda. Another point in which Ben & Jerry?s is going to face a challenge is in having a broader focus of their CSR, going further than environmental issues. It will not be easy to put their effort on so many issues, so they will have to choose which problems they address more directly, facing a difficult moral dilemma. Also, by being such an ethical centred company, they face the challenge that when committing a small error this will be severely penalized, damaging their brand name. Ben & Jerry?s must also put a great effort on diversifying the racial composition of their workforce (97% white people), and work on granting an equal salary to their executives no matter their sex. We also believe they must change their approach to the environmental issues their address, from activism to social caring (less aggressive). An area in which they could improve their CSR is in making people aware that a healthy diet is necessary, hence recognising that an excessive consumption of their product is not healthy.


Start a new discussion

3 Discussions / 3 Messages

  • Ben & Jerry’s 28 February 2013 at 17:16 , by David Peral

    Nowadays all big companies have to be conscious about everything that affect the society.Often that social conscience is an obligation to survive in the wild market. For many companies (big firms) these investments are insignificant. it is just the minimum they need to continue being competitive.So when you see some companies reducing their benefits because of their philosophy and not because market require it, you really believe in them.
    The case of Ben & Jerry’s in my personal opinion is quite different because it is not and enormous company and it is selling only one product,I mean, is not a company with different products in a lot of areas. They are focused in ice-cream.
    I think, the sector of ice-cream is one of the less questioned sectors in terms of values,environment,society....
    Because they are producing something simple,easy, known for everyone. I think, that Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t need to show people how good they are doing things.If they sell a good product that’s enough for them.
    However they want to be different they want to changes.

    At the end of the article, on the last paragraph, says something Ben & Jerry’s could improve.It talks about health.
    I totally agree with that, because everybody know they are not offering a healthy food.However they can use this opportunity to create a range of healthy ice-cream, it would be really interesting for the company and for the costumers.

  • Ben & Jerry’s 1 March 2013 at 00:10 , by Laura

    What I think it’s truly remarkable about this company is the main goal they chose, which is to use the resources of the company to make the world a better place. Before reading this study case and therefore learning a lot more things than what I already knew before, I realized this is much more than a company that only sells ice cream. They have a very strong corporate culture and they are really fighting for making the process of dairy production more sustainable and I think this is quite admirable nowadays because not many companies have the same vision and the same way of thinking in order to change facts in the world to make it a more sustainable place to live in. Having said this, If I were Ben or Jerry I would try to expand the brand name, which is barely known outside US and Europe, and even in Europe is little known in some places (for example in Spain) to reach out to more people.

  • Ben & Jerry’s 1 March 2013 at 01:21 , by Carlos Perez

    I think that every company, but especially big companies as Ben & Jerry’s, have to be conscious of their acts because could have a lot of concequences.
    As I read before, this company takes care of the world and spend money to improve the environment.
    That is so good, but I don’t know anything that they do for the people. Could be that this actions are focused only at their country or state, but they are selling products arround the world. With that I’m not saying that they are bad, what I want to say is that in the text that I read before, they say that they are traing to help the world, but i don’t know anithing that they do out of their territory.
    Hopefully it will be more companies like Ben & Jerry’s traing to help their people and the society. With their values and his way of act they could be and example for the new generations and for everybody. This will be very good for all.

Location: Burlington (United States of America, Vermont)

Sector: ice-cream

Official website:

Key figures:

Founded: 1978
Headquarters: South Burlington, Vermont
Country: U.S.
Main factory: Waterbury

Parent company worldwide: Unilever NV

Key people: - Jostein Solheim (CEO)
- Ben Cohen (co-founder)
- Jerry Greenfield (co-founder)

Employees: 500 (2007)

Products & Services: Ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, smoothies

Incomes: $3.750.000 (2005)
Sales: $97.000.000 (2005)
Assets: $43.120.000 (2005)

Began Franchising: 1981
Total Investment (per franchise): $175.25K - 451.25K

Franchise Units

2011 299 5 487 5
2010 340 5 464 6
2009 383 6 456 6
2008 417 19 380 8
2007 425 21 236 11

Number of Locations: Over 800 units worldwide.

Nbr. visits: 7108

Nbr. inspires: 21