Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream was founded on the corporate concept of linked prosperity, interrelating a three-part mission statement to focus their company's growth. Their mission statement, which covers their product, economic and social goals, focuses both the leadership and the workforce on their key values. These values include staying in touch with the customer base, using quality ingredients, maintaining profitability and maintaining social awareness and accountability. Throughout the history of the company, its owners, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, have interacted with their customers, gaining knowledge on what people like and dislike about their ice cream. Opening their store in Burlington, Vermont in 1978, they immediately began interfacing with the local populace by hosting a free summer movie festival, projecting movies on the wall of their renovated gas station. In 1985, they introduced New York Super Fudge Chunk (R), a flavor suggested by a writer from New York City.
Throughout the years, they have continued to introduce new flavors either suggested or inspired by either regular individuals or well-known celebrities. Ben and Jerry launched their "Cow mobile", a modified mobile home used to distribute free scoops of ice cream in a unique cross-country marketing drive. Unfortunately, the vehicle burned to the ground outside Cleveland, but everyone escaped unharmed. Ben said it looked like "the world's largest baked Alaska". Undaunted they resurrected the idea the following year with "Cow II", once again going cross country giving away free scoops. That same year, at the suggestion of two "DeadHeads' from Portland Maine, Ben and Jerry introduced the first ice cream named for a rock legend, Cherry Garcia.
In 1988 they introduced Chunky Monkey at the request of a college student in New Hampshire. Staying in touch with their customers would not enable Ben and Jerry to be as successful as they have become if their ice cream was not high quality as well. The second value the company espouses is to use only wholesome, natural ingredients. They began their operation on this premise, utilizing fresh Vermont milk and cream to create their frozen concoctions.
During a period of volatility in the dairy market in 1991, the company went so far as to pay a dairy premium totaling a half million dollars to combat Vermont dairy farmers' losses. This helped protect the family farmers who supplied the milk for Ben and Jerry's ice cream. The combination of good product and good marketing over the years has enabled Ben and Jerry's to increase sales and maintain profitability year after year. The company has progressed from an initial investment of $12,000 to a company worth $326 million dollars when Unilever acquired it in the year 2000. Sales increased year after year, often more than 100 percent over the previous year. Constantly adding new product, resurrecting old product and successfully marketing that which consistently sells has propelled the company to the forefront of the ice cream industry.
One of the fundamental values that Ben and Jerry's has lived since Day One has been their involvement in the community in which they live and the global community as a whole. Since its inception, the company has taken an active role in trying to improve the quality of life for their neighbors. Its states this specifically in its mission statement as it "recognizes the central role that business plays in society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally & internationally". In 1985, the company established the Ben and Jerry's Foundation with an initial gift from Ben and Jerry. In 1988, the foundation netted Ben & Jerry's the Corporate Giving Award from the Council on Economic Priorities, presented by Joanne Woodward at a reception in New York City, by donating 7.5 percent of its pre-tax income to non-profit organizations through the Ben & Jerry's Foundation.
That same year, President Reagan named Ben and Jerry U.S. Small Business Persons of the Year in a White House Rose Garden ceremony. Ben and Jerry's efforts ranged from environmental issues such as global warming, saving the rainforest and promoting solar energy to social issues such as Farm Aid, campaigning to raise awareness in Congress on children's basic needs and highlighting music, arts, crafts and social action. In 1988, Ben & Jerry's rescued Rhode Island's legendary Newport Folk Festival from oblivion by becoming its sponsor. In November 1998, Ben & Jerry's introduced the ice cream industry's first pint container made from unbleached paperboard. The new "Eco-pint" carton, made from unbleached brown kraft paper with a non-toxic printable clay coating, represented a major breakthrough key to one of the company's environmental mission goals: reducing its use of all paper products bleached white with a chemical process that is one of the country's leading causes of toxic water pollution. This social activism paid off for the company in 1999 as it was named one of the top 30 "Most Reputable" companies, placing #5 overall while earning the top spot in the "Social Responsibility" category.
Ben and Jerry's continues to support worthwhile causes by teaming up with non-profit organizations in Partner Shops, Ben & Jerry's scoop shops that are independently owned and operated by community-based nonprofit organizations. Ben & Jerry's donates Partner Shops to nonprofit organizations by waiving the standard franchise fees and provides additional support to help nonprofits operate strong businesses. Partner Shops offer supportive employment, job and entrepreneurial training to youth and young adults that may face barriers to employment. As Partner Shop operators, nonprofits retain their business proceeds to support their programs. Of course, none of Ben and Jerry's success would have been possible without the support and dedication of its employees. Aside from the normal employment package (that most companies offer) and the three free pints of ice cream a day, the company seeks to empower its employees and to gain their backing in keeping its social responsibilities.
Their support is fundamental to the mission of the Ben and Jerry's Foundation as detailed in its mission statement, "to make the world a better place by empowering Ben & Jerry's employees to use available resources to support and encourage organizations that are working towards eliminating the underlying causes of environmental and social problems". Ben and Jerry's mission statement motivates its employees by allowing them to see that the company takes seriously its position in the global community. While profits are an integral part of the company mission, and necessary to its success, they are not the sole reason for its existence. They are simply one-third of the sustainable corporate concept of linked prosperity developed by the founders. Supporting its workers is key to fulfilling the second link of the mission statement. Ben and Jerry's instituted the "Joy Gang" in 1987 in response to the increasing demands placed upon its employees.
Its mission is to infuse joy into everything happening at the company. Some of the activities it has sponsored have been $500 grants to purchase items for departments (i.e. hot cocoa machine for the freezer crew), parties and themed activities for employees such as Barry Manilow day, etc. as well as the "Dog Days of Summer", where employees brought their pets to work for a free flea dip bath while their owners chowed down on grilled hot dogs and hamburgers. Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream was founded on the corporate concept of linked prosperity; it has not only survived but has soared by ensuring that its employees, its shareholders and even those less fortunate are given every opportunity to succeed. It has blended all three pillars of its mission statement together to create a highly successful, fun, but socially responsible company..