Sustainability at Ben and Jerry’s

Ben and Jerry’s recently held a conference in Paris to promote their line of fair-trade ice cream. Ben Cohen, the Ben behind Ben and Jerry’s, discussed the economic downturn, saying that fear and greed have proven to be poor and unsustainable business practices and that we must build a new economy based more on compassion.

He elaborated on Ben and Jerry’s sustainable practices and the culture of sustainability that exists within the company. He specifically discussed their fair-trade ice cream program, in which they pay a small premium to farmers and producers in developing countries. By paying a small premium, Ben and Jerry’s profit margin is slightly reduced, but that little amount makes a world of difference in the lives of farmers, their families, and their communities.

Ben and Jerry’s has a long history of social and environmental sustainability, dating back to long before it was fashionable to do so. Since in 1988, an inner-city bakery in New York City that trains and counsels the homeless has provided the brownies for Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

Ben also mentioned that in the early years of Ben and Jerry’s, when the price of milk and other dairy products fell below levels where it was profitable for farmers to produce dairy products, they continued to pay farmers prices above market value. This practice kept farmers in business while still allowing Ben and Jerry’s to make a healthy profit.

Some of Ben and Jerry’s environmental initiatives were also touched on, such as their efforts to reduce carbon emissions in every step of their production process, from cow to cone.

Clearly, compassion and sustainability, not greed, have been working just fine for Ben and Jerry’s. As Ben said during the conference, corporations are supposed to serve public interest instead of the public serving corporate interests, as has been the case recently.

It is time to start building a new economy – one based on compassion and public interest, rather than corporate interests, where the goal is not profits at any cost, but rather sustainable profits.

For detailed information on all of Ben and Jerry’s sustainable practices, visit their site: