Ben & Jerry’s: Corporate Social Responsibility or Just a PR Stunt?
Ben & Jerry’s known for its commitment to social justice and being a values-led business. At least that’s their PR scoop.
But it found itself in the spotlight due to a troubling revelation. The New York Times reported that migrant child labor was employed in processing milk used in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. This raised questions about the company’s claims of having values; are they walking the talk?
Their response was perplexing—they seemed to condone child labor if it occurred in a well-monitored workplace, contradicting their stated values. Ben & Jerry’s head of “values-led sourcing” shared: “.. if migrant children needed to work full time, it was preferable for them to have jobs at a well-monitored workplace.”
In their statement, they opposed child labor but failed to address the specific findings or the supplying farm. Are we to believe that companies exploiting children provide a healthy work environment? This lack of transparency lacks accountability and authenticity.
Two months later, Ben & Jerry’s UK branch released a new flavor, Sunny Honey Home “to bring the tastes and cultures of their home countries to the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream family.” This collaboration involved eight refugee entrepreneurs and aimed to support refugee-led start-up companies with the proceeds. However, this initiative doesn’t address previous concerns about child labor in their supply chain.
Ben & Jerry’s Bends the Knees of Social Responsibility
The story of Ben & Jerry’s highlights a common trend in today’s business landscape. Companies that claim to be socially responsible and value-driven sometimes fall short of their proclaimed ideals when faced with real-world realities. This discrepancy between rhetoric and action erodes trust and credibility.
Ben & Jerry’s, once hailed as a pioneer in better business and a certified B Corp, appeared to have undergone an ethos shift after its acquisition by Unilever, a multinational corporation. The gap between its activist image and the actual practices raises questions about the authenticity of “social responsibility.”
Is responsibility and having values on paper merely a PR scoop for another big business owned by multinational corporations with rich but disgruntled founders who cashed out? Why do we create productive, heartless machines that solely generate shareholder value?
So, what happens when we become aware of what and who we are consuming? Is it time for us to hold each other accountable and support those who genuinely live the values? True responsibility demands unwavering commitment, not just words. All our children on this planet depend on us to align our words with action. Is it time to know how our scoop is made?