The Business of Empowerment

Ben & Jerry’s Sean Greenwood explains the company’s socially-driven values to inspire students.

Ben & Jerry’s may be one of the leading ice cream makers in the world, but ice cream is only one part of the company’s three-part mission, which also includes sustainable business growth and using the company in innovative ways to make the world a better place.

As the last speaker for Steward’s 2015-16 Visiting Innovator series, Ben & Jerry’s “Grand Poobah of PR” Sean Greenwood expanded on the company’s socially-driven philosophy in a presentation called “Scooping It Together: Blending Science, Food Innovation, Mission, and Social Entrepreneurship” in the Bryan Innovation Lab on April 5. He started at Ben & Jerry’s in 1988 as an ice cream scooper and went on to work in hospitality and manufacturing before settling into his current role.

Mr. Greenwood summarized the lengthy list of awareness campaigns the certified B Corp has undertaken in order to promote social change. Last year, the corporate focus was on environmental sustainability, so Ben & Jerry’s examined its carbon footprint and added a self-imposed carbon tax of $10 per ton to support emission reductions. In addition, it sponsored a nationwide tour in which employees served its latest ice cream flavor, “Save Our Swirled,” out of an emissions-free Tesla vehicle.

“It’s integral to our company’s DNA to be involved in doing good things,” Mr. Greenwood said. “When we first started, [co-founder] Ben’s philosophy was that businesses have a responsibility to give back to the community. We live, feel, and breathe that even more so today. If we can use our leverage to raise awareness around important issues, it makes us a much better business.”

Mr. Greenwood revealed that this year’s awareness campaign, which will officially be announced in May, will focus on empowerment in voting and democracy as the 2016 election approaches: “We are seeing that people feel disenfranchised; like they don’t have a voice in government anymore. We hope to highlight this issue and, by bringing ice cream into the mix, hopefully create a palpable discussion for everyone.”

During his visit at Steward, Mr. Greenwood led hands-on sessions and thoughtful discussions with students throughout the day, including guest visitors from St. Andrew’s School. The activities culminated in a Maker Fair before the evening lecture to learn about local food sources and sample delicious ice cream generously donated by Ben & Jerry’s.

“It’s important for students to understand that they get to choose what businesses to support,” Mr. Greenwood said. “Learn what goes on in a business—this information isn’t contained in a vacuum. If you want to change something, companies will listen, and that’s a huge impact you can make.”

Click here to listen to WCVE’s interview with Mr. Greenwood about his visit to Steward.





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