The business model of Ben & Jerry's.

Have you ever wondered why enjoying a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s feels like being part of something bigger? Well, that’s because you are getting a taste of a brand that is not only about big flavors but just as much about big values and an even bigger impact. Every bite of Ben & Jerry’s comes with a scoopful of social justice, a swirl of environmental care, and a burst of creative genius, all mixed into one. What once started as a fun idea at a tiny gas station in Vermont, has by now become a worldwide sensation that continues to inspire millions of people – with its ice cream and its impactful business model. Do you want to know how Ben & Jerry’s uses ice cream to change the world? Let’s dig into their story and explore what keeps the ice cream machines churning.

Becoming a worldwide force for good.

Ben & Jerry’s’ story began in 1978 when two friends, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, turned a small gas station in Burlington, Vermont, into the first Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop. With a $12,000 investment, they ventured on a mission to create extraordinary ice cream flavors. They only used fresh, locally sourced cream and milk, as well as the best and biggest chunks of nuts, fruits and cookies they could find. They combined their innovative approach to flavors, such as Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey, with a mission to make the world a better place. The stage was set for them to become a brand conscious of its social and environmental impact, with a loyal following.

"We love making ice cream – but using our business to make the world a better place gives our work its meaning."
- Ben & Jerry's

Rocky Roads to success.

The road to success was paved with bold flavors and even bolder actions. In 1984, Ben & Jerry’s faced a significant challenge when Pillsbury, the parent company of Häagen-Dazs, tried to restrict their distribution. Ben & Jerry’s response? The cheeky “What’s the Doughboy Afraid Of?” campaign that sparked an outrage among the many members of their community. The campaign got them national attention and eventually led to Pillsbury backing off.

Ben & Jerry’s was not going to get sidetracked. They were determined to become a force for good. That is how they got noticed by Unilever, the British-Dutch multinational in consumer goods. With brands such as Axe, Dove and Lipton, Ben & Jerry’s was not one they could pass up on. Ben & Jerry’s became their first acquisition with a purpose, amounting to $326 million. They made sure the deal would stay true to Ben & Jerry’s social mission, brand integrity and independence, and allowed Ben & Jerry’s to continue their commitment to community values and keep donating a percentage of their profits to social causes. The acquisition also provided Ben & Jerry’s with plenty of opportunity for international expansion and with that a significant impact in their market segment of premium ice cream brands.

A swirl of impact in every pint.

Until today, Ben & Jerry’s has maintained its core values and continues to innovate and advocate for change. With a vibrant presence in over 38 countries, Ben & Jerry's remains committed to its founding principles of equity, sustainability, and community support, all while delighting fans with flavors that are as unique and outspoken as their social mission. Their business model shows their commitment to generate a solid ‘triple bottom line’ and considers all three pillars of corporate sustainability: people, planet and profit, balancing economic success with social and environmental responsibility. Ben & Jerry’s owns this approach and made it theirs. Now let’s see what exactly they are doing to drive impact worldwide.

Want to know how you can create impact?

Our impact playbook will show you!

Soft bites fighting hard for global social rights.

Ben & Jerry’s has become a voice of the people. They believe everyone deserves respect and full and equal civil rights. They feel connected to the people they create value for, and the people they deliver value with, while at the same time being conscious of the impact they have – both positive and negative – on their surroundings. Their advocacy shines through in their decisive stances on social issues, such as the movement against white supremacy following the tragic George Floyd murder and their Justice Remix’d campaign  aimed at the criminal justice system. Beyond their engagement regarding racial injustices, Ben & Jerry’s supports a wide range of advocacy issues including refugee rights, LGBTQ+ rights, finance reform, just to name a few. Ben and Jerry’s is not afraid to speak up and even has a separate marketing and activism team dedicated to supporting these initiatives.

Eco-friendly practices in every print.

Now, let’s shift the focus from people to planet. Ben & Jerry is deeply committed to environmental sustainability and incorporates eco-friendly practices across its operations. They have set ambitious climate targets. By 2025 they aim to transition to 100% renewable energy and reduce their emissions intensity by 40% --and even to 80% by 2050. In packaging, they have taken a bold step by joining the Pack4Good initiative, led by Canopy, which focuses on transforming the global paper packaging supply chain to prevent exploitation of the world’s forests. This commitment involves reducing the amount of material used through design innovation, maximized use of recycled and alternative fibers, and ensuring all paper packaging is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.

Ready to give your strategy a swirl?

Let’s top up your mission with impact.

Sustaina-bowl treats: good for you and farmers too.

And finally, we have come to the sweetest part of the Ben & Jerry’s business model where social and environmental advocacy meet innovation: their delicious, chunky ice cream. Since 2006, Ben & Jerry’s has partnered with  to source key ingredients such as cocoa, sugar and vanilla from certified Fairtrade producers only. By choosing Fairtrade, Ben & Jerry's ensures that farmers across the globe receive a fair pay so they can earn a living wage and improve their communities. This approach helps reduce economic disparities and supports local economies, ensuring that the people who grow our food can thrive and sustain their livelihoods.

Aside from being conscious about ethically sourcing their ingredients and their supply chain, Ben & Jerry’s continues to push the boundaries of traditional ice cream making. They experiment with unique ingredient combinations and develop products that cater to a wide range of dietary preferences, including dairy-free and vegan options. This inclusive approach ensures that more people can enjoy their ice cream, regardless of dietary restrictions.

Silly names with serious goals.

When it comes to naming their flavors, Ben & Jerry's takes a creative and conscious approach that goes beyond catchy names. Have you ever heard of “Home Sweet Honeycomb”, “Wavy Gravy” or “Chubby Hubby”? Each name reflects the brand's quirky personality and their commitment to not only taste good but do good. For example, in 2015 Ben & Jerry’s introduced “Save Our Swirled” as part of a climate change awareness campaign, inspiring over 300,000 fans to join the movement and take action. With their unique names they aim to engage consumers and spread awareness about important issues, all while enjoying a pint of ice cream. It's a fun and flavourful way to make a statement, showing that what we choose to indulge in can also reflect our values and willingness to contribute to a better world.

Check out it's business model canvas:


The final scoop.

We could debate for days about which Ben & Jerry’s flavor is the best, “Chocolate Fudge Brownie”, “Cookie Dough S’wich Up”? or the iconic “Chunky Monkey”. One thing is certain, Ben & Jerry’s knows how to blend pleasure with purpose. Through their commitment to environmental sustainability, social justice, and community engagement, Ben & Jerry’s shows us how business can be a force for good and proves that success can be both sweet and meaningful.

Our 3 tasty takeaways from Ben & Jerry's story:

1. Champion social cause: Make a difference by supporting social and environmental initiatives that match your brand values. This could mean partnering with nonprofits, advocating for change, or dedicating a portion of profits to causes you firmly believe in.

2. Prioritise sustainable practices: Look at how you source ingredients or materials and for ways to minimise your environmental impact. Using Fairtrade ingredients, for instance, or eco-friendly packaging can really set you apart and will appeal to eco-conscious consumers.

3. Engage your audience with meaning: Use creative product naming or campaigns to highlight important issues. This not only draws attention to the causes you care about but also involves your customers in your mission, creating a deeper brand connection.

Don’t let your good intentions melt, get started with impact today! Not sure how? Whip your brand into shape with our impact playbook.

Ready to scoop up some change?

Meet Roland. He’s ready to sprinkle the world with impact.

Roland Wijnen
Roland Wijnen