We’ve all heard of Ben & Jerry’s. If not, you are missing out. I absolutely love their flavors. But, definitely try Half-Baked and Tonight Dough. Yum! More importantly, Ben & Jerry’s is a company that I highly respect and admire. It has taken many important progressive stands in our society (incidentally, “progressive” is a positive term that should be widely used and not taken out of context). The following is an email from Matthew McCarthy, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s:
Activism at a corporate level comes down to a unified walk and talk. Businesses must make transparent their values and take actions to address real social and/or environmental ills. If you're not willing to act, there's no sense in getting involved in the game because the people you serve are too smart, too savvy, and will call B.S. We believe in using the power of our business to support progressive change and call out injustice. It's what this business was founded on. In 1979, our co-founders spoke clearly: "Business has the responsibility to give back to the community from which it draws its support." It set in motion our Social Mission, which actually required another decade to formalize for Ben & Jerry's. What's possibly most important for CEOs to hear is that they should not try to be Ben & Jerry's. Ben & Jerry should not try to be Patagonia. Patagonia should not try to be Lush. Given that each organization is unique, leaders must decide what issues are right for them. Fear of negative impact to the bottom line holds leaders back. There is a reason why no NFL team has picked up Colin Kaepernick. All consumers—especially Millennials and Gen Z—are increasingly demanding that businesses get involved and make a difference. So, by not taking action, you put your brand and future revenue base at risk. And, regarding backlash: expect it. Equally important, support your teams through the criticism when you stand up for your values and take action. Few things are worse than failing to live your values out of fear of criticism. Get over trying to please all people. Businesses should never try to be all things to all people. By the same truth, we should never expect all people or consumers to agree with all of our values. When people or consumers see you strive and sometimes fail in the pursuit of your values, they often become your most loyal fans and advocates. If you're not doing the work, then you shouldn't be talking about it externally. That's authenticity. And it's not about perfection. It's about intent, effort, and actions taken in combination. This year, many businesses tried to gently wade into the waters of racial justice without having done any of the work. That resulted in external statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement that rang hollow. It's better to focus on one issue than talking about several. Finally, be honest. Ben & Jerry's still has a lot of work to do to dismantle structural racism, both internally and externally. We're hiring a new Head of Racial Equity; we'll increase the number of Black-owned franchises and Black-owned (and led) suppliers because what we've done to date falls far short of our vision. The work we've done over the past five years on racial justice has provided us with good experience and learning to fuel our next steps. We'll continue supporting our activism with a new Non-Dairy flavor partnering with Colin Kaepernick, who, as an activist, has inspired us in the way he highlights the systemic oppression of Black and brown people. We will learn from him, as we do with all of our other partners, and together we'll invite others to join along our activism journey.