From partnering with Greenpeace to build a climate-friendly ice cream cooler through converting all flavors to Fair Trade to converting ice cream waste to energy, Ben and Jerry's has a significant history of impressive good-for-the-world business initiatives.
And yet skepticism persists. Ever since Unilever purchased the company, Ben and Jerry's have had to face accusations of "selling out". So how does one ensure that the mission of a company persists, even after it has been purchased by a larger entity that is beholden only to its shareholders?
Ben and Jerry's has just announced they are becoming an officially certified B Corporation. In fact, they are the first wholly-owned subsidiary to earn that seal of approval—and as such, they've had to pass a whole host of additional requirements that independent B Corps do not need to meet:
As a wholly-owned subsidiary, Ben & Jerry’s has met additional transparency requirements to earn its B Corp certification, making its full B Impact Assessment and relevant excerpts from its governing documents visible to the public at www.bcorporation.net/benjerry. Highlights of Ben & Jerry’s B Impact Report include: 45% of its cost of goods sold go toward investing in and supporting small scale suppliers through the Caring Dairy program; 100% of its U.S. pint containers are made with FSC-certified paperboard; and its lowest paid hourly worker receives 46% above the living wage.
What's fascinating about the B Corporation movement—which now includes entities including ETSY and Patagonia—is not that it is about businesses who are committed to doing good. We've seen mission-driven businesses around for years. Rather, it's the notion that businesses can institutionalize their good-for-the-world nature in a way that makes it very hard to backtrack or reneg on the pledges you make.
This is particularly important when applied to businesses who can be, or have been, bought by others.