Jostein Solheim CEO of Ben & Jerry’s lives in Vermont with his wife, Rebecca and their family dog, Tilly. The couple has two sons. Jostein’s favorite flavor is Chunky Monkey.
How would we all behave, as businesses and as individuals, if our prosperity was linked to others? Since Ben & Jerry opened that first ice cream shop in a renovated gas station in Burlington, VT more than 35 years ago, we’ve continually sharpened our company’s ability to do more than just make the most euphoric ice cream in the world. And we’ve clarified that we have bigger aspirations. We want to change the world.
The good news is that what seemed so unusual in 1978--the idea that business can be a source of profit and a force for good--is no longer the exception to a rule. It’s now a global movement. I couldn’t be more optimistic.
The discomfort that Ben and Jerry felt in that gas station about how the system of business was broken and only possessed self-interest was real. However, today more than 1,800 B Corporations strong, in more than 50 Countries, across 130 sectors - all of them sharing the idea that business can be a force for good has demonstrated a new reality. But this movement has just begun and there is much work to do. We’ve got to foster the next generation of entrepreneurs, the next Seventh Generation, to create more B Corps. Just as important, we’ve got to encourage conventional companies to join our movement because it’s better for the world and better for business. We know that the companies that are most sustainable are the ones who successfully combine profits with purpose, and that often they are outperforming those that simply focus on the bottom line. They are also the companies that are attracting and retaining the most dynamic and diverse talent pool, building incredible depth with their fans, connecting with the communities they source from, and creating a greater possibility of equity for us all.
Ben and Jerry’s operates with a three-part mission (social, economic, product) that aims to create linked prosperity for everyone that’s connected to our business: suppliers, employees, farmers, franchisees, customers and neighbors alike. We have always believed that all stakeholders should prosper as we prosper. For example, we use our ingredients and the power of our purchasing decisions to support positive change in farming communities around the world. This is one expression of a sharing economy.
But becoming a B Corp is just the beginning of the work, not the end. As a certified B Corp, we’ve been using the B Impact Assessment to drive continuous improvement across our company and our supply chain. The assessment scores our impacts, both good and bad, across the environment, workers, customers, community and governance.
The potential power of the B Corp community to transform the way business is done is real. But for that potential to be realized, we’ve got to make being a B Corp the new normal. If you’re in the corporate world, whether CEO or new MBA, I’d encourage you to embrace the power and potential of business to be a driver of progressive social change, and help us build the vibrant, sustainable, and inclusive economy of the future. That’s what being a B Corp is all about. I hope you’ll join us.
Meet Jostein Solheim at the 2016 Women’s Forum Global Meeting in Deauville, France – Thursday 01 Dec. at 11:20