Ben & Jerry's certified for social values commitment
By David Taube
STAFF WRITER | October 28,2012
Cassandra Hotaling / Staff File photo
Georgia De Candio scoops ice cream during a Ben & Jerry’s free-cone day in Rutland in this file photo. The company has received a B Corp certification for its social values.
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream became certified as a benefit corporation this month, a designation that reflects a company’s commitment to social values.
Of 643 companies certified by a nonprofit certifying organization called B Lab, Ben & Jerry’s certification, known as a B Corp, was the first given to a wholly owned subsidiary of a public company.
“We actually had some elements in there that were different from the B Corp requirement ... that actually exceeded it,” said Jeff Furman, chairman of Ben & Jerry’s board of directors. “I think this can grow in the country as more companies get to do this and take this on as a mission and hold themselves responsible.”
The certification recognizes companies that strive to create more and higher-paying jobs compared to other businesses, even ones that are sustainable. Benefit corporations also seek to provide higher levels of community service, among other factors.
As part of the certification, the Vermont-based company was recognized for 45 percent of its raw material costs going toward family-owned dairy farms. It was also recognized for paying its lowest-paid hourly employee at least 46 percent more than the living wage, and for having all of its U.S. pint containers use paperboard certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which seeks to have forests harvested responsibly.
According to Furman, the certification reaffirms the company’s commitment to a values-led business practice, continuing a social mission that is collaborative between Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever.
The B Corp certification has been likened to the certification for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) used for homes, buildings and communities that involves electric and heat efficiency and reduced carbon dioxide emissions.
To be a certified as a B Corp, a company must score an 80 or higher out of 200 possible points.
The assessment covers aspects ranging from accountability to transparency, employee ownership opportunities, safety practices, how consumers benefit from products or services, and environmental effects.
Ben & Jerry’s scored an 89. The median score, or 50th percentile, for certified companies is 103, and the median score for sustainable businesses that have voluntarily taken the B Corp assessment is 84.
As a B Corp, a company goes through a process every two years to recertify, and scores are updated online, according to B Lab marketing staffer Jennifer Yee.
A certain portion of profits that Ben & Jerry’s gives to charity will stay the same as part of the B Corp certification, Furman said. The amount is calculated by a formula based on sales and inflation.