Jostein Solheim has just stepped down as CEO of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream after eight years at the helm of this iconic progressive company. He took the job a decade after the company’s purchase by Unilever, and some worried that Ben & Jerry’s might retreat from its social mission. Instead, Solheim doubled down: during his tenure, Ben & Jerry’s became a certified B Corporation, signed an agreement with Migrant Justice called “Milk With Dignity” to protect and empower migrant dairy workers, and reduced chemical use within the company’s supply chain. Ben & Jerry’s is now among the only corporate sponsors of the Poor People’s Campaign, continuing work started by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., more than a half century ago. Solheim is now directing Unilever’s North American food and beverage operations. He reflects on blending business and activism, fighting white supremacy and poverty, and making great ice cream. (August 29, 2018 broadcast)
If you’ve ever purchased Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked or Chocolate Fudge Brownie, you have helped the unemployed. That’s because the brownies in the ice cream are from New York’s Greyston Bakery, which employs the most unemployable people in America. The bakery has an open hiring process, and does not do screenings or background checks. What began as a social experiment in 1982 has now helped thousands of people get back on their feet.
Greyston is located in Yonkers, New York. Its mission to hire ex-convicts, recovering addicts, the homeless, and others who have had trouble finding work. Among the benefits that its workers enjoy are childcare and subsidized housing. The bakery’s profits go to the Greyston Foundation, which supports local gardens, health clinics, and free job training programs. The bakery employs about 85 people.
Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, discusses what makes a business socially responsible, his Stamp Stampede campaign to get money out of politics, the boycott campaign against Ben & Jerry’s over ice cream sales in Israel and the Occupied Territories, his thoughts on Occupy Wall Street, and humor in organizing. We also talk with Falko Schilling of VPIRG about the campaign to require labeling of genetically engineered food.