You’ve seen the news, the media, the protests. What you do with your voice amidst social justice movements is entirely your decision. At Ben & Jerry’s, using business power to voice progressive beliefs is at the core of their brand mission. You may know Ben & Jerry’s as simply an indulgent ice cream company. However, they feel that they are an aspiring social justice business that happens to make ice cream.
Sean Greenwood, Grand Poobah of Communications and Public Relations of Ben & Jerry’s, educated PRSSA students about the importance of corporate social responsibility in a virtual panel for PRSSA REIMAGINED, a national programming partnership between American University, Grand Valley State University, Kennesaw State University, Samford University, the University of Memphis and West Texas A&M University.
Grab yourself a pint of your favorite Ben and Jerry’s ice cream as we cover the panel’s critical takeaways shared from the @PRPoobah himself. (His favorite is cherry garcia!)
Practice versus profit
Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t just talk about their values, they practice them and encourage their fans to get involved. The well-known ice cream brand uses their flavors and packaging as a vessel for communicating their progressive beliefs, as well creating events to inspire activism. The company has brought public attention to environmental responsibility, racism, women’s rights, same-sex marriage, and other progressive issues they are passionate about. Every chance they have to practice their values, they take. Flavors such as “Empower-mint” and “Hubby Hubby” (Chubby Hubby changed in support of Vermont’s same-sex marriage law) project the values of Ben & Jerry’s in their signature creative style.
Ben & Jerry’s also sources their delicious fudge brownies from Greyston Bakery. This bakery provides employment to anyone, regardless of educational background, work history, or past social barriers, such as incarceration, homelessness, or drug use. Ben & Jerry’s has been supporting Greyston Bakery and their mission since the 1980’s.
It’s internal as well as external
Sean emphasized that corporate social responsibility must be internal as well as external. For the last five years, Ben & Jerry’s has integrated education about racial justice into their corporate culture. They hosted an internal event called Silence Is Not An Option where renowned speakers shared powerful messages about the reality of racism in our society. Some speakers included US Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, and Ibram X Kendi, #1 New York Times best selling author of How Not To Be Racist. Ben & Jerry’s also created a book club for internal employees to consistently learn and engage in conversation about the reality of these social issues. Sean shared that he feels people are willing to listen to Ben & Jerry’s political voice because the brand has been active for years about social movements and is dedicated to continuing conversations.
Everyone can make a positive impact
To close out the meeting, Sean shared, “if you can work for a place you believe in, how lucky are you to do that!”
Take a value you are passionate about and dive into it. Learn what you can, use your voice, and take it wherever you end up in your journey. Ben & Jerry’s believes that every business should be able to have a positive impact on their community. That has to start with YOU. Bring your involvement with your values to an organization and begin real systematic change. The ice cream and PR fanatic explained that activism looks different for everyone and their brand, so find your niche.
Ben & Jerry’s social mission and concern for justice separates them from not only other ice cream companies, but other companies at large. Using business power to bring awareness to real systematic change is essential in today’s society.
Sean Greenwood left the PRSSA students with a quote that Ben & Jerry’s lives by, and that we all should begin to live by:
“Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble” Rep John Lewis (1940-2020)