Ben & Jerry’s: A brand with a conscience
Did you hear? Our sweet tooth can actually be put to good use! It can even work towards creating social change.
“Sweet taste of justice” and “Ben & Jerry’s tackle social change with its newest ice-cream flavour” have been popular headlines following the launch of the ice-cream giant’s latest campaign.
Working with The Advancement Project, Ben & Jerry’s created the socially conscious Justice ReMix’d flavour to “spotlight structural racism in a broken criminal justice system.” From Fast Company to TIME Magazine, the campaign has received some solid coverage.
The campaign came to my attention through some text messages from friends in Australia. They were asking me why the hell the ice-cream brand had decided to do this. Some even suggested it was a little “try hard”.
At first glance, the Justice Remix’d campaign sparks a few valid questions:
- Did it come about it simply because one individual is interested in the cause?
- Or is it because there is a large audience that connects to it?
- If a company wants to do good in the world, why not focus on its core mission and do it better?
- What about sharing profits with employees, using recycled materials, optimising logistics to reduce transport, sharing patents, etc.?
Personally, I think the lens we use to look at any campaign should comprise the following trifecta: Environment, Context, and Intent.
ENVIRONMENT: Ben & Jerry’s is a 41-year-old US company that was sold to Unilever in 2011. Its ice-cream products are available in more than 35 countries.
CONTEXT: The company was founded by childhood friends and dedicated activists Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. Ben & Jerry’s is renowned for using its voice to tackle social issues dear to the hearts of its founders and previous CEO Jostein Solheim.
INTENT: The brand has taken strong progressive positions in the past – for example, supporting marriage equality and climate change campaigns. Former CEO Jostein Solheim is also known for choosing to focus on the change he can make, rather than managing other people to bring about that change.
The brand has even recruited an Activism and Impact Manager to lead the development and communication of climate justice campaigns in Australia and New Zealand, further strengthening and leveraging the impact its 30-plus Scoop Stores have on the public.
If you investigate the brand further, you’ll find its various online platforms are all aligned when it comes to social justice. Check out the latest articles on the Ben & Jerry’s website:
- It’s Getting Hot in Here: Youth Call on All of Us to Join the Global Climate Strike
- 1609-2019: From slavery to mass incarceration
Ben & Jerry’s even uses Scoop trucks to generate conversations about social issues in cities such as Saint Louis and Miami. The brand educates the public and sends messages to public officials, handing out free scoops while they’re at it.
“Our approach to creating social change is to raise up the work non-profits are doing on the ground,” said Advancement Project co-founder Ben Cohen. “We bring every resource we have to support them—our business voice, our connection with fans, our Scoop Shop community and, of course, ice cream. Somehow, it’s easier to talk about difficult issues over a scoop or two.”
In the book, Leading from Purpose, author Nick Craig explains that Ben & Jerry’s former CEO, Jostein Solheim, was being groomed for the prized position of Senior Vice President of ice-cream at Unilever. However, the promotion meant that instead of being able to do the work that really mattered to him, Solheim would have to manage others who would be doing that work. So, Solheim listened to the little voice in his head and decided to do the work that mattered to him. He turned the promotion down to lead from purpose.
Ben & Jerry’s says a portion of the proceeds from its Justice ReMix’d sales will go to the Advancement Project National Office, supporting its work in criminal justice reform.
Recently, US President Donald Trump paused his feuds with actor Debra Messing and former FBI director James Comey to attack singer John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen. Legend had appeared on MSNBC to discuss criminal justice reform and ending mass incarceration. As detailed by the Huff Post, Trump posted a tweet in response, claiming to support reform and attacking Legend for not backing his plan last year. So, you can see how the environment in such a campaign is crucial – it’s “the current” hot topic in America.
All in all, what we have here is a brand that is driven by the honest desire to create social change. In the current American climate, the only surprise is that there aren’t more brands doing the same thing.
My question for you today is: What does your company stand for? As a founder, are you using your company’s platform for the greater good? Can you take part in a conversation that could shape the lives of many people and make your country, this Earth, a better place?
Keep stretching – the world and your business need you!
Referred to as the Plateau Hacker, Joris is a Speaker, Trainer, and Mentor helping CEOs, executives, leaders, and their teams get unstuck and thrive. It’s time to unlock the full potential of your leaders and their teams to reach their next peak performance.
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