’s Essay, Research Paper
Due to the societal shift in the twentieth century toward material gain and capitalism, there has been an overwhelming emphasis put on monetary accrual and the pursuit of wealth. To generalize, people are no longer satisfied with familial happiness and achieving status through such things as cars and clothes has become the norm. Due to this, the job market has become increasingly more competitive, which in turn has given tremendous power to business. Corporations have all but taken over control of the distribution of assets. Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s writes, “Corporations have been granted the right to become the major depositories and bestowers of wealth in our society.” Businesses, whether they want to or not, have a tremendous impact on the economic and social status in the world. The underlying problem with this relatively recent shift is that too often is the case that larger corporations neglect to acknowledge the potential danger they pose to the environment and the society as a whole. Therefore, it is the duty of each and every enterprise to take into account the tremendous power it possesses and act in such a way that is not detrimental to society. Unfortunately, as history teaches us, too many businesses take the “its not my problem” attitude and the result is often times irreversible. Since 1978, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have accepted the fact that indeed companies have the capacity to have a tremendous influence on the economy and ecology, and done everything possible to make theirs a positive one.
To run a successful business, several factors must be kept in mind at all times. The business must function efficiently and at the same time produce a quality product. The consumer’s interests also must be taken into account, and too often overlooked is the necessity to maintain a satisfied work force, making them feel important and needed. The Ben and Jerry’s corporation, but a small two man operation running out of a gas station twenty years ago, has always rendered these qualities vital, no matter what their circumstance was. The two men met in 1963 as seventh graders in a small Long Island gym class. Ben, a native of Brooklyn, New York, attended Colgate University for only a year before dropping out to return to his high school job as a neighborhood ice cream man. He had a brief stint at Skidmore College as well as NYU, and moved to upstate New York before going into business with his partner and long time friend Jerry Greenfield. Jerry was also born in Brooklyn and after high school attended and graduated from Oberlin College. After being rejected form medical school twice and moving to North Carolina, he and Ben decided to make their dream a reality. They decided to move to Vermont, and with a $12,000 investment opened a small homemade ice cream shop in downtown Burlington.
When the business began Ben and Jerry sat down and had rather basic goals. Their credo was “If it’s not fun, why do it?” They wanted to enjoy themselves while earning a living, and at the same time give something back to the community. As business began to take off, they needed to set down guidelines in order to achieve all three goals. Ben and Jerry execute what is referred to as a values-led business.
“Values-led business is based on the idea that business has a responsibility to the people and the society that make its existence possible. More all-encompassing and therefore more effective than philanthropy alone, values-led business seeks to maximize its impact by integrating socially beneficial actions into as many of its day-to-day activities as possible*By incorporating concern for the community – local, national, and global * into its strategic and operating plans, the values-led business can make everyday business decisions that actualize the company’s social and financial goals at the same time.”(Ben and Jerry’s Double-Dip, p.30)
Their mission statement, due to the type of company they desired was broken down into three separate parts (p.46):
Product Mission: to make, distribute and sell the finest quality product
Social Mission: to operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life of the local, national, and international community
Economic Mission: to operate the company on a sound fiscal basis of profitable growth
This method of business and sense of mission allows Ben and Jerry’s to do several things. The business naturally holds profit and success as a priority, but at the same time acknowledges and does its best to help the community and its surroundings. Ben and Jerry’s current CEO, Perry Odak, says that he originally “sought out the company because of its excitement about combining social endeavors with a growing, profitable business.”(p.188)
The management in Ben and Jerry’s is very people oriented. If run properly, values-led businesses often yield an incredibly motivated workforce. “If people understand that the work they do produces more than just profits, and they’re in alignment with the values of the company, there’s no end to what they can contribute.”(p.165) The management at Ben and Jerry’s has always strived to keep the employees happy and emote a real sense to the staff that indeed they are important. “Values-led management aspires to respect employees and seeks to meet their needs as well as the needs of the company.”(p.167) Instead of having top level management be distant and authoritative, the management at Ben and Jerry’s is very involved with the employees. Their employees are often surveyed, every eighteen months in fact, on how they feel the company is doing, their thoughts on improving products and management, and how happy they are. Because of this, the workforce at Ben and Jerry’s remains quite content, and never feels too distant from top level executives. Management in 1985 implemented what they call a five-to-one salary ratio, which limits the top executive salaries to five times the lowest salary. This idea ensured that as the company prospered, so too did everybody working for the company.
Management at Ben and Jerry’s has established a list of what they call “Our Aspirations,” in order to constantly remind themselves not only their goals but what they are in business for. They are fourteen mini-objectives that clearly exhibit to the management what needs to get done and the way in which to do. Briefly, each one(compiled from pp.173-175):
To Be Real * actions speak louder than words; be the company that they claim to be
To Be the Best * plain and simply, want to be the best ice cream company in the world; if the customers are satisfied with the product, the company will prosper and they’ll outperform the competition
To Improve Continuously * each time a goal is accomplished, a back check should be done to look for ways of improving upon methods for next time
To Learn Continuously * employees constantly should receive training in all areas so their contribution to the company increases
To Be Inclusive * people of all backgrounds work for Ben and Jerry’s and each one’s individuality is embraced and creates a tight knit group
To Be Creative * creativity excites customers and naturally helps business
To Build Community * no employee of Ben and Jerry’s feels alone and everyone on the staff would extend a hand to another employee
To Be Open and Trusting * if everyone trusts one another, people feel a lot safer about sharing their opinions and ideas, therefore strengthening the company
To Celebrate and to Give Meaningful Recognition * when goals are acomplished, they should be acknowledged; recognition of achievements will only lead to more achievements
To Use Consultive Decision Making and Active Listening * people of certain expertise are often employed to help make decisions; leaders of the company also must be take into account employee opinions
To Hold Ourselves Accountable * if everyone does their job and takes care of their responsibility, the company will run smoothly
To Be Great Communicators * leaders of the company always need to make sure that their staff is well informed of whatever needs to be done
To Be Upfront * people need to be directly told what to do and avoiding roundabout communication is vital
To Be Profitable by Being Thrifty * when the company invests, they need to be careful about how mow and where they invest. Saving the company money is beneficial to stockholders and employees
Rather than hiring outside help for new job openings, Ben and Jerry’s hires from within the company, promoting people up through the ranks and delegating more responsibility. In the beginning, when new employees were being hired, management demonstrated the company’s goals and methods to the new members, and let them know what their particular responsibilities were to be. In this way people had a clear understanding of the company’s direction and what they needed to do in order to be promoted. Unlike many big companies, Ben and Jerry’s recognized that the most important asset to their company was its employees, and that is one of the biggest reason that they became so successful (see graph at end).
Because of this, Ben and Jerry’s offers a wide array of benefits to its employees, realizing the high costs of living in this day and age.
Because Ben Cohen and Jery Greenfield believed in themselves and their ideas, their company as become quite successful, accumulating numerous accolades. At the same time, they have not neglected their social duty and have contributed greatly to the society. In 1985, they established the Ben and Jerry’s Foundation which is allotted 7.5% of the company’s annual pre-tax profits for supporting various community oriented projects. Because of this foundation, they were awarded the Corporate Giving Award form the Council on Economic Priorities in 1988. In ‘91 held voter registration in their stores and got 1500 more Vermont residents to register. When the Newport Folk festival was in danger due to a lack of a sponsor, Ben and Jerry’s took up the reins. They helped to establish a movement to redirect 1% of the U.S. defense budget to fund peace-promoting projects. They received Columbia University’s Lawrence A. Wien Prize for corporate Social responsibility. They supported family farmers by printing an 800 number to call on their pint cups. Frankly, the list goes on and on. By sticking to their preset guidelines and objectives, Ben and Jerry’s was and still is able to maintain a lucrative business that is great to its employees and beneficial to society.