Thirty years ago, from humble beginnings, ice-cream makers Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield established ‘Ben & Jerry’s’ – a company that would go on to create some of the world’s best loved, tastiest ice-creams.
In 1985 the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation was created, with a commitment to donating 7 ½% of the company’s annual pre-tax profits to philanthropy. The Foundation’s purpose was to distribute these profits to causes that further social justice, protect the environment and support sustainable food systems.
Today, the foundation awards c.$1.8m annually to causes across Vermont and the USA, and it’s all run by the company employees.
Ben & Jerry’s philosophy is:
The Double Dip: Business should be about the pursuit of two bottom lines, that of profits and that of people. They believed this so much that they wrote a book about how to achieve it, ‘Double Dip’.
‘Business’ and ‘Mission’: From day one, Ben & Jerry’s had a philosophy that their ‘business’ would be ice-cream, but their ‘mission’ would be building a community, making a difference, and having fun.
Measure both every month: Each month Ben and Jerry ask their employees: “How much have we improved the quality of life in the community? And how much profit is left over at the end of this month? If we haven’t contributed to both those objectives, we have failed.”
Let the employees decide: in 1994 it was decided that there were no better people to communicate and demonstrate the progressive value systems of Ben & Jerry’s than the people who worked there, and so the employees were given full responsibility for deciding where to reward community grants. It made the impact even more special.