VOL. 129 | NO. 56 | Friday, March 21, 2014
Ben & Jerry’s Co-Founder Talks About Values During Visit at Rhodes College
By Andy Meek
Jerry Greenfield’s name is part of one of the most well-known snack brand names in the country.
Talk to him about his company, though, and it quickly becomes clear the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s puts his company’s culinary salience on the same level as its goal of acting as a benevolent corporate citizen – championing social causes both internally and outside the company.
Greenfield traveled to Memphis this week to make a pit stop at the Ben & Jerry’s store in front of the Malco Paradiso as well as to visit Rhodes College. His remarks Thursday, March 20, came under the rubric of presenting his company’s “entrepreneurial spirit, social responsibility and radical business philosophy.”
He expanded on those themes in an interview with The Daily News. In short, the company is about more than crafting ice cream flavors with catchy names like Hazed & Confused and Karamel Sutra – it’s also pursuing the heady mission of making a better world.
“We’ve tried hard to integrate values into the business and social and environmental concerns into the company,” Greenfield said, noting that Ben & Jerry’s is transitioning to ingredients that are 100 percent GMO-free by the end of this year.
The company also is in the process of making a shift toward all Fair Trade ingredients – and those switches, Greenfield added, would not result in price increases for customers.
“The reason we do these kinds of things is we think business plays a central role in the community,” he said. “It’s really a neighbor, and like any neighbor you have to think about what your impacts are.
“It’s important to note that you can do all these good things, but you still have to do all the other elements of a business well, too. Make a great tasting product, get your distribution right, and do your marketing well. You don’t get a free pass just because you’re a caring and compassionate company.”
Greenfield and his other co-founder Ben Cohen don’t run the company anymore, he explained, but they get involved in areas tied to the company’s “social mission.” Cohen is especially on a tear at the moment, for example, advocating for more limits on money spent in political races.
When asked about the core values of Ben & Jerry’s, Greenfield said they include taking a progressive look at things like price, quality and social and environmental impacts. As part of the shift to non-GMO ingredients, the company announced in recent days that it’s replacing Hershey’s Heath Bars with fudge-covered toffee pieces in flavors like “Coffee Heath Bar Crunch” and “Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch.”
Sometime this spring, those flavors will start showing up on shelves renamed, with “toffee” replacing the word “Heath.”
“When people think about us, I want them to think about great tasting, healthy and wholesome products we make,” Greenfield said. “But I also think we’ve shown that it’s possible for a business to be led by values. To be just as financially successful as any other company, and you can do things as a business that are in the common interest and not just in your own narrow self-interest.”