Ben & Jerry’s: A Long History of Corporate Sustainability
Ben & Jerry’s company ethos is embodied by the title of its founders’ 1998 book: “Doing well by doing good.” A core part of Ben and Jerry’s business and operating model is centered around the company’s social mission and brand integrity. For instance, when Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever in 2000, one unique aspect of the deal was that an independent Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors would be created to help maintain focus on these issues. 
Ben & Jerry’s has real “skin“ in the climate change game.
- Key inputs that the company has historically relied on for its flavors are now endangered because climate change is reducing the amount of arable land available for both farming and coffee-growing across the globe.
- As Ben & Jerry’s own website states: “As a food company, many of the our partners in our value chain, are at real risk from a warming planet. And because climate change is a risk to people in our supply chain, it’s also a risk to our business. 
- Like Chocolate Fudge Brownie? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that anticipated rises in temperature and the associated decline in freshwater could reduce global cocoa production by as much as 50% by 2050 . Fan of Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch? A study cited by the company predicts that the number of pre-existing regions suitable for growing coffee could fall from 65-100% by 2080 . And just plain vanilla? Actually, the more frequent extreme weather induced by climate change in the world’s tropical regions is threatening the stable environment needed for vanilla to grow .
- In addition, Ben & Jerry’s needs dairy products to make its ice cream, uses freezers to house its ice cream products, and trucks to bring its finished pints from factories to point of sale.
Ben & Jerry’s has been a clear leader in the ice cream industry in adapting its operating model to anticipate and adapt to climate challenges.
Carbon Footprint Monitoring and Internal Carbon Tax
- Ben & Jerry’s made the decision to conduct a company-wide lifecycle analysis to see where the company’s carbon emissions stemmed from (see Figure 1 below).
- As one result of this process, the company decided to institute an internal carbon tax of $10 for every metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions, from farm to landfill . The company has also supported efforts alongside other companies to introduce a first-in-nation carbon tax in Vermont .
- Ben & Jerry’s (along with other brands under corporate parent Unilever, like Klondike and Popsicles) was one of the earliest adopters of more energy efficient and climate-friendly freezer cabinets. These freezers use hydrocarbon refrigerants instead of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) .
- HFCs have a direct global warming impact more than a thousand times worse than the reference gas carbon dioxide .
- Ben & Jerry’s was the first to bring this climate-safe ice cream freezer to the US after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) changed its regulations to approve this alternative refrigerant in 2011 .
Reducing Methane Use
- Ben & Jerry’s has some of the most innovative and resourceful farmers in the business.
- In partnership with Native Energy, the company has introduced a machine that separates the liquids and solids in manure. Solids are composted to create a manure bedding material for cows, while the liquid is used in the field as fertilizer. 
- Methane gas is a major contributor to climate change. Ben & Jerry’s use of existing manure separators will keep at least 10,000 extra tons of C02 out of the atmosphere over the next 10 years. 
There are still new frontiers for Ben & Jerry’s to explore that would increase sustainability and reduce its climate change impact.
- Development of non-dairy flavors: The company’s analysis showed that 41% of Ben & Jerry’s carbon footprint came from cows — more than factory operation, packaging, and freezing combined. Dairy farms are major sources of GHG emissions. Currently, each Ben & Jerry’s pint produced adds ~2lbs of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere . Therefore, by transitioning to more vegan or non-dairy flavors, Ben & Jerry’s can help to significantly reduce its greenhouse emissions.
- Integrated Supply Chain: 14% of Ben & Jerry’s carbon emissions are linked to outbound transportation of ice cream from factories to distribution centers to retail locations. By investing in more factories outside of Vermont and Maine, they will be able to produce closer to point of sale, thereby reducing emissions from transport costs.
- Continued Advocacy: Ben & Jerry’s can continue to serve as a leader in the corporate community as a voice on climate, both by inspiring other companies to emulate their innovations, and by providing backing for future legislative efforts.
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