Fearless Brands is a column dedicated to identifying and celebrating brands that are taking a stand, challenging the status quo, and working to build a better future. In other words, brands acting fearlessly. This is not a sponsored column, and brands do not pay to appear here. Do you know a fearless brand? Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When it comes to socially responsible brands, Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s has long been a poster-child. They strive for a sustainable supply chain and have found a way to convert dairy waste into energy. In October 2012, they officially became a certified B-corp. During the recent election season, they spoke out for transparency in corporate political donations.
Now, they’re joining the GMO fray, with a recent news release stating the company’s support for GMO labeling.
Who They Are
Founded in 1978 by a couple of hippies in Vermont, Ben & Jerry’s sells premium ice cream with milk and cream sourced from family farmers. Due to their progressive corporate mission and emphasis on using business as a force for peace, sustainability, and social good, the company been held up many times as a model for corporate social responsibility.
Why They’re Fearless
Ben & Jerry’s mission is ambitious and far-reaching. It’s so impressive, in fact, that it’s worth publishing in full:
We have a progressive, nonpartisan social mission that seeks to meet human needs and eliminate injustices in our local, national and international communities by integrating these concerns into our day-to-day business activities. Our focus is on children and families, the environment and sustainable agriculture on family farms.
- Capitalism and the wealth it produces do not create opportunity for everyone equally. We recognize that the gap between the rich and the poor is wider than at any time since the 1920’s. We strive to create economic opportunities for those who have been denied them and to advance new models of economic justice that are sustainable and replicable.
- By definition, the manufacturing of products creates waste. We strive to minimize our negative impact on the environment.
- The growing of food is overly reliant on the use of toxic chemicals and other methods that are unsustainable. We support sustainable and safe methods of food production that reduce environmental degradation, maintain the productivity of the land over time, and support the economic viability of family farms and rural communities.
- We seek and support nonviolent ways to achieve peace and justice. We believe government resources are more productively used in meeting human needs than in building and maintaining weapons systems.
- We strive to show a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.
The Lesson for Brands
It’s one thing to write a mission statement connecting your business to something greater than itself. Mission statements make employees and customers feel good and are great for brand perception. It’s another thing entirely, however, to take a stand in the name of that mission, especially when it means investing in things (like reducing waste) with no immediate payout, standing up for consumer rights and transparency (even when you benefit from an unfair status quo) or anything else that might affect short-term profits.
Ben & Jerry’s understands that in the 21st-century, we can no longer treat business as a self-enclosed entity, operating according to rules and frameworks that are somehow separate from the rest of society.
Much has been made of corporate America’s propensity for internalizing the fruits of doing business while socializing the costs. Ben & Jerry’s, by contrast, is dedicated to what they call “linked prosperity”, which essentially recognizes the possibility that business can and should be a powerful force for the betterment of society.
On top of it all, they make pretty good ice cream, too.
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