Integrity Awards and Keynote Speaker 10/17/14 10/16/14 11:19:08 PM
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Jerry Greenfield’s storefront venture grew into a $300 million business. “We make the best possible ice cream in the nicest way possible,” Greenfield says.
Integrity Awards and Keynote Speaker
Are Sweet Treat for Area Businesses
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record
Definition: The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness, adherence to moral and ethical principles.
The Better Business Bureau recognized those who demonstrated those qualities at their annual Integrity Awards Luncheon on October 7.
For the company’s generosity and ethical behavior in the business world, Ben & Jerry’s was recognized by the BBB.
Introduced by his friend Todd Simon of Omaha Steaks, Jerry Greenfield, co-founder and president of Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, addressed the audience of about 800, a speech laced with good humor.
Brooklyn native Greenfield twice failed to get accepted into med school. His best friend since junior high, Ben Cohen, dropped out of many colleges, including University Without Walls, which required no attendance and no tests. “We were the slowest, fattest kids in 7th grade gym class,” Jerry recalled. They took a correspondence course in ice-cream making – “We got A’s on all our take-home tests” – and teamed up to open Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream Parlor in the college town of Burlington, Vt., in 1978.
Sales were good, but slowed in the winter months, so they began to distribute their ice cream to local stores.
Enjoying some success, Häagen-Dazs tried to limit their distribution and the team filed suit against its parent company Pillsbury. Then they launched the “What’s the Doughboy Afraid Of” campaign, plastering the question all over town. They staged a one-person picket line and ran a small ad in Rolling Stone magazine saying, “Help two Vermont hippies fight the corporation,” and received donations. They printed T-shirts that said “Major Contributor to Ben & Jerry’s Legal Defense Fund.”
They put their 800-number on their packages and wrote Pillsbury a letter telling them to “pick on someone your own size.”
Then they exploited a little-known loophole in Vermont law and “went public,” selling Vermont-only stock for $120 a share (limit one). They sold out, raising $750,000 for a new manufacturing plant.
“One out of 100 in Vermont was a stockholder,” Jerry said. The media picked up the story and Pillsbury backed down. Ben worried that they were becoming “big business people,” then ran into a restaurant owner who asked him, “Why don’t you change that?”
So they established a foundation and pledged to fund it with 7.5 percent of the company’s annual pre-tax profits. “We were overwhelmed by requests from non-profit organizations,” Jerry said. “We realized that we could never give away enough money.
“We realized that the real power in our business was in how we did day-to-day operations. … So, we embarked on this journey to find ways to integrate social and environmental concerns into our day-to-day business.”
They discovered it was just like any other business endeavor. They introduced new flavors with intriguing names, like Cherry Garcia and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (which was served to those at the luncheon). Most of the flavors never make it out of the lab. At Ben & Jerry’s they say ‘Many are cold, but few are frozen.’
“We partner with social service organizations. We created Chocolate Fudge Brownie to support homeless and disadvantaged people.” The brownies are baked by Greyston Bakery, which provides employment and training to economically disadvantaged residents of Yonkers, NY. Last year, the company bought eight million brownies from them.
“We sold the company in 2000 to Unilever,” Jerry said, “They have a very good sense of humor. The same day they bought Ben & Jerry’s they also bought Slimfast.”
Unilever agreed to preserve and expand their social mission, brand integrity and product quality.
“We have learned there is a spiritual aspect to business – the more you give the more you receive. We are all interconnected. Help others and you can’t help but be helped in return,” Jerry said.
“The more down this path we go, the more successful we are.”
A SurpriseAfter his speech, Jerry Greenfield was presented with a surprise award by Dr. Beverly Kracher, executive director of the Business Ethics Alliance of Omaha and professor of Business Ethics and Society, Marketing and Management at Creighton University.
“This Beacon of Ethics award is given to individuals who have dedicated their lives to integrity and civic responsibility and guided others toward ethical excellence.
“You started a movement. … You have shown businesses that you can lead with value and give of time and money at the same time. That you can measure business not in terms of its profit but through its social and environmental responsibility,” Kracher said.
“We offer this Beacon of Ethics Award as a small token of our gratitude for your unwavering integrity and unconditional service to others.”
Businesses HonoredThe Better Business Bureau serving Nebraska, South Dakota, The Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa has been spotlighting businesses that demonstrate integrity since 1995. This year 13 businesses, chosen by 20 area business leaders, joined 92 previous winners. The BBB noted, “The Omaha community is truly enriched by your efforts.”
The top 2014 BBB Integrity Awards were presented to these businesses, selected in categories defined by number of employees:
Care Consultants for the Aging, Vision2Voice, The Driveway Co., Total Construction Services Inc., Medical Solutions LLC and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska.
Silver Awards of Distinction went to: Silver Hammer Carstar and Northwest Carstar, Early Out Services Inc., Centris Federal Credit Union and Pinnacle Bank.
Bronze Awards of Merit went to: Access Bank, Thermal Services Inc. and McCallie Associates Inc.
Business who reached 25- and 50-year milestones with the BBB were also recognized.
Students HonoredTen high school “Students of Integrity,” from a field of 100 entries, were awarded scholarships for their “respectful, honest and trustworthy” behavior. The two students from the metro Omaha are Ashley Blunk, a senior at Papillion-La Vista South and Lauren Wehrle, a senior at Millard North.
The BBB Foundation also made $200 donations to the designated charitable organizations of ten area high school students in honor of their integrity and commitment to service.
From left, those accepting BBB’s 2014 Integrity Award winners are: Daniel J. Rehal, President of Vision2Voice; Vice President Melissa Smith and President Michaela Williams of Care Consultants for the Aging; Ben Callahan, owner of The Driveway Company; Kevin Jackson, President and CEO of Total Construction Services Inc.; Chief People Officer Kristy Johnson of Medical Solutions LLC; and Lew Trowbridge, Executive Vice President, Treasurer and CFO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska.