I’m in Vermont for a few days with my brother enjoying some of my favorite things while on vacation. In addition to a handful of craft breweries (something for which VT is well known), we stopped by the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory for a tour while passing through Waterbury, VT. The ice-cream factory is quite a sight to behold, decorated as it is with the iconic Ben and Jerry’s cartoon designs and colors. It is a very family-friendly environment, offering lots for children and grown ups to do. It’s also a rather affordable vacation destination, something that is likely not accidental given the Ben and Jerry’s mission statement. It is what the company stands for that leads me to write a bit about them here at DatingGod.org.
While I’ve known for years that Ben and Jerry’s has sought to use the highest quality ingredients in their products, focusing as they have from the early days on locally grown and produced ingredients (the non-industrial, hormone-free milk, for example), I was not aware of one of their more recent mission-related ventures. Over the years Ben and Jerry’s has been moving to use more and more Fair Trade Certified products in its ice cream.
Beginning with its coffee-flavored products in 2005, this has been a pillar of the company’s planning and production. What I first discovered during a video presentation during the factory tour and have seen confirmed on the Ben and Jerry’s website and elsewhere, is that the company plans to only use Fair Trade Certified products in its ice cream by 2013! Here is an excerpt from the website.
Ben & Jerry’s continues its journey down the Fair Trade sourcing path this year. We are the first ice cream company to use Fair Trade ingredients and it started with our coffee flavors in 2005. Ben & Jerry’s is committed to sourcing Fair Trade-certified ingredients when they are available by 2013. This transition is the most intensive product overhaul that the company has ever undertaken, everyone is involved, from the people supplying the ingredients, to the Flavor Gurus. To learn more about Fair Trade Certified products and the Fair Trade movement, visit http://www.FairTradeCertified.org
Although some have complained that the Ben and Jerry’s line of ice-cream products is more expensive than many other brands, its efforts on this front are indeed admirable. Given the environmental and social priorities the company has named in terms of being a justice-oriented actor on the national and international stage, I feel a little more at ease about the price difference, believing as I do that the cost is not artificially inflated as much as it is reflective of a dynamic company involved in more than making a profit (while I always recognize that every company seeks that end too).
I have rarely encountered a company so successful and yet so committed to values that I personally hold, such as matters of environmental concern and, in the terms Ben and Jerry’s uses, peace and justice issues. Here is some more from the company’s mission statement:
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.
So, rest assured that when you eat some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, you can do so with a clear conscience, at least in terms of environmental and social-justice issues. Now, if only we can do something about clearing our consciences in terms of the ice cream’s calories!