The Sale Agreements between Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever contain a goals statement that still guides the company’s pursuit of linked prosperity. Schedule 6.14, “Ben & Jerry’s Social Mission Priorities,” lists eleven long-term objectives, along with an addendum that lists nine more.
It took a long time to settle on these points. “It was by far the most unique deal I have ever been involved in,” said Richard Goldstein, who was President of Unilever USA and their chief negotiatior. “When we were getting toward the end of it, Ben [Cohen] used to call me at home at all hours. My wife would answer the phone and he’d say ‘Yo, it’s Ben.’ She’d say, ‘Ben, he’s traveling. I’m going back to sleep.’
Unilever wanted Ben & Jerry’s badly, so Goldstein kept saying yes as Ben kept piling things on. The Agreement Unilever signed says, “It is the current intention of [Unilever], subject to economic viability, to conduct the business of [Ben & Jerry’s] in a manner consistent with the following aims. Economic viability shall be as mutually agreed in good faith by [Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever].”
Schedule 6.14 is like a vision statement, says Rob Michalak, Ben & Jerry’s global director of social mission. As the company continues refining and improving its processes, the goals provide the board of directors with broad guidance toward setting priorities. Here are the eleven points and the nine addendum points:
1. Continue packaging improvement efforts with the ultimate objective of achieving a compostable pint.
2. Continue the ongoing compliance with CERES principles (Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies) and efforts toward creation of a sustainability “footprint” for the business.
3. Continue sustainable agriculture efforts.
4. Continue the long- term relationship with the St. Albans Cooperative.
5. Continue the brand’s position of opposing the use of rBGH (Bovine Growth Hormone) and continue the “We oppose rBGH” pledge and premium.
6. Support the brand’s position to have GMO free products available.
7. Continue to expand and support the Company’s unique PartnerShop Program.
8. Continuation of innovative purchasing relationships as well as consideration of further development of sourcing relationships consistent with our social mission and goals.
9. Provide ongoing support for Partnerships with Nonprofits.
10. Continue ongoing contribution for philanthropy and support for site community projects.
11. Continue the Social Audit/Assessment and Reporting.
(i) significant women and minority representation on the Company Board;
(ii) affirmative programs to identify and provide technical assistance to vendors owned by minorities and indigenous peoples;
(iii) affirmative programs to identify and to provide financial and technical assistance to vendors which give priority to a social change mission;
(iv) the expansion of the number of PartnerShops and franchises owned by women, minorities and indigenous peoples;
(v) the Company’s headquarters and primary production facilities remaining in Vermont;
(vi) the purchase of non-rBGH milk and cream primarily from Vermont farms;
(vii) the use of unbleached and recyclable packaging, to the extent available at commercially reasonable prices;
(viii) the purchase of key commodities (such as vanilla, coffee and cocoa) according to fair trade practices, to the extent available at commercially reasonable prices; and
(ix) the continued advocacy of positive social changes on packaging, such as non-partisan campaign finance reform, national budget priorities, sustainable energy etc.
The sale agreements are public documents, accessible through the EDGAR database of the Securities and Exchange Commission (find out where to look here). In the next few posts, we’ll take a look at these goals and see what Ben & Jerry’s has done to move toward them since they were adopted fourteen years ago.
2 Responses to What Ben & Jerry’s Dreams About
I was reading on Non Profit Quartetly where they essentially say that it is a myth that Ben and Jerry were forced to sell and it was patently untrue.
Thanks for your question. It is true that Ben, Jerry, and the rest of the board were not legally required to sell. They were forced to choose between two things they didn’t want. One was selling to Unilever. The other was laying off hundreds of employees, defending against lawsuits, and making other hard choices. Although the vote to sell to Unilever was unanimous, Ben abstained and two other board members told me they preferred to stay independent, no matter what. This is all laid out in Chapters nine and ten of the book.