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Foreword by Annie Leonard  


Main Characters   



“We’re Completely Insane, and We Need Your Help!”  

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield never planned to become business icons when they opened an ice cream shop in Burlington, Vermont, in 1978. Neither did their friend Jeff Furman, who was a key player from the beginning. Twenty-two years later, Ben and Jerry resigned from the board of directors when the company was sold to Unilever for $326 million. But Jeff stayed to fight for a new vision of business that links the owners’ prosperity to employees, communities, and the environment.  



A New Kind of Start-up  

The growth train started rolling when Ben & Jerry’s sold its first pints in 1981. As growth accelerated, Ben and Jeff seized the opportunity to build a different kind of business. The board of directors used trial and error to invent a mission that gave equal emphasis to three goals — great ice cream, social purpose, and profit. When it worked, the world started to notice. 



Progressive Sweatshop 

Between 1988 and 1990, an admiring media profiled Ben & Jerry’s as a “socially responsible business.” But integrating the social mission into daily operations proved a complicated struggle. The company’s pioneering attempts to pursue a three-part mission made history, but the ride was anything but smooth.  



Staffing the Social Mission 

Between 1990 and 1992, skilled managers started implementing the three-part mission in strategic ways. The company’s most important contributions during this period were the annual reports that introduced social auditing to American businesses. 



Money Starts Talking 

1993 was the year it all went wrong. A decade of rapid growth ended six months after Ben & Jerry’s broke ground on an expensive new ice cream plant. As a management crisis deepened, the board abandoned the company’s celebrated salary ratio in 1994 and decided to look for a CEO with mainstream corporate experience. 



Yo, I’m Not Your CEO 

Between 1994 and 1996, the social mission became more integrated into operations as social audits sharpened the company’s focus on measurable results. But the first attempt to find a “professional” CEO failed, and in desperation, the board made a quick decision that proved disastrous. 



The Gulf Was So Wide

In January 1997, a new CEO started focusing on maximizing value for the shareholders of Ben & Jerry’s, which made the company an attractive target for a takeover. As the CEO groomed the company for a sale, the board did not face the growing risk.



Leading with Progressive Values

In the late 1990s, Ben & Jerry’s made several important social mission advances, including an effective campaign against bovine growth hormone, a statement of Leading by Progressive Values, improved rules for values-led sourcing, and taking the three-part mission overseas. 



Unacceptable Choices 

By the late 1990s, consolidation in the ice cream industry made it difficult for Ben & Jerry’s to continue as an independent company, even though most board members did not want to sell. Ben became estranged, board meetings resembled legal depositions, and it often seemed that investment bankers were calling the shots. 



The Sale Agreements 

Unilever wanted Ben & Jerry’s badly, and its top executives were willing to keep the social mission if that would clinch the deal. In 2000, after a long struggle, Ben & Jerry’s sold, but only after Unilever signed sale agreements that created an independent board with legal authority to protect the social mission and product quality in perpetuity. 



A Thousand Cuts 

The three-part mission went on a long detour after Ben & Jerry’s was sold in 2000. Unilever assigned the company to a manager who cut costs aggressively and violated the sale agreements in increasingly blatant ways, and it took seven years for the board to mount a counterattack. 




In 2008, the activist spirit of Ben & Jerry’s reignited as the board pushed Unilever to take the sale agreements seriously. While they negotiated, they also prepared a lawsuit and a public relations campaign. They almost went through with it, too. 



Pursuing Linked Prosperity 

In 2010, Ben & Jerry’s made peace with Unilever, and the three-part mission roared back to life. A talented CEO and profits from international expansion made it easy to set audacious goals. While things are far from perfect, the company has recommitted to its struggle to change the world while also making great ice cream profitably. 


Epilogue by Jeff Furman 

What does it all mean? In this epilogue, the man known as “the ampersand in Ben & Jerry’s” reflects on four decades of trying to advance the three-part mission and linked prosperity, and on the eternal struggle to remember people’s names. 


Reflection by Anuradha Mittal

Why the most important question for moving forward on linked prosperity is “How can we be more unreasonable?” 



Sources and Further Reading 

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