Not long ago, I went to an event where there was a fantastic keynote speaker: Jerry. You know – as in “Ben & Jerry”? No joke. He was friendly & humble. He was hilarious. He brought ice cream. Everyone loved him.
The event was called Venture 4 Change, and Ben & Jerry’s is a shining example of a company that has created a business model to do good in more ways than just making people money. Ben & Jerry’s donates 7% of their before-tax profits to charity, and that’s just one part of it.
Economic bottom lines are of course important, but Jerry described how Ben & Jerry started a business, and it was growing fast, but neither one of them particularly LIKED business. “We grew up in the sixties,” he explained, “so business really represented everything that was bad about the world to us.” They were considering selling, until someone make a simple suggestion: “If you don’t like the way it is, why don’t you change it?”
They decided that they’d publish their annual report with both an economic bottom line AND a social impact bottom line. They looked for opportunities to do good while carrying out their business. For instance, they now source their brownies in the popular “Chocolate Fudge Brownie” flavor from Grayston Bakery, which provides employment and training opportunities to economically disadvantaged residents of Yonkers, NY. They’ve been active in piloting green, HCFC-free freezers, and they’ve recently announced that they’ll be 100% fair trade by 2013.
I was inspired. It’s great that the business has chosen to use its power for both economic and social gain. And it’s great that they make delicious ice cream. But it’s also a fantastic story of two “regular” guys. And these two “regular” guys have their own story of realizing their own potential to make a positive difference in the world around them.
I think MOST people have a story of coming to terms with their own ability to affect the world around them, be it through their business, their donations, or their relationships. Often the story comes in chapters – unfolding a little at a time as we realize the extent of our powers. Some stories take longer to figure out than others. What’s YOUR story?
Joel enjoys a delicious Ben & Jerry's 'Half-Baked' Ice Cream Bar, compliments of Jerry himself!
June 23, 2010
“Ben and I built Ben & Jerry’s on the idea that business has a responsibility to the community and environment.
If you open up the mind, the opportunity to address both profits and social conditions are limitless. It’s a process of innovation.”
- Jerry Greenfield ,
Co-founder of Ben & Jerry's
Joel Hilchey is the founder of The Beanstalk Project, a youth engagement initiative to develop global leadership and create positive social change. He speaks at schools and events across North America, inspiring character by juggling, storytelling, and playing with mousetraps.
Ben & Jerry’s have even opted to take a stance on edgier social & political issues, which has earned them both criticism & publicity:
For the month of September, 2008, they changed the name of “Chubby Hubby,” a popular ice cream flavor to “Hubby Hubby” in celebration of Vermont’s newly legalized same-sex unions.
They also marked Barack Obama’s election as president of United States by renaming one of its nutty flavors to “Yes Pecan!”
RIDDLE: A man has 3 children. Some friends are over and ask how old they are. 'Their ages multiply to 72.' Of course the friends reply, 'That's not enough information.' So the man says, 'Well, their ages add up to my house number.' So the friends run outside and look at the number, but return saying, 'That's STILL not enough information!' So the man says, 'Well, my eldest child LOVES Ben & Jerry's ice cream.' 'Ahh,' the men say, 'Now we know!' Do you know how old the three children are?