tv Jerry Greenfield Discusses Social Entrepreneurship CSPAN December 24, 2016 10:00am-10:44am EST
>> today on c-span, a conversation with the ben & jerry's cofounder jerry greenfield followed by women entrepreneurs discussing innovation and does -- and diversity in silicon valley. then retiring senator barbara mikulski gives her farewell address from the senate floor and later, look at this year's white house christmas decorations and the lighting of the national christmas tree. >> every weekend, book tv gives you 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors and hear what -- and here's what's coming up of a book about a book about abandoned schools across the u.s. at 8 p.m., joseph beck talks lawyer's fight a
for justice in 1930's alabama. he spoke at the 20th annual southern festival of books in nashville. at 10 p.m., johns hopkins lookssor ellen silvergeld at new technology and the impact on consumers and workers in her latest book. the professor is interviewed by dan glickman, former u.s. secretary of agriculture. >> people in america have never really been on a farm. but theycounty fair don't know what it is to be a farmer. it's not a romance. romantic viewd of of agriculture which i find exasperating because it makes it impossible to think about agriculture clearly. a.m., megyn 11:00 kelly talks about her life and career as a journalist in her book.
she spoke with the bbc world news resent her. at 5:15 p.m., james rosen and christopher buckley, the son of william buckley, discuss their book. it examines essays on famous figures written by christopher buckley's father. the event was moderated by the executive editor of the national review. benjamin.m., medea looks at the relationship between the united states and saudi arabia. go to book tv.org for the complete weekend schedule. >> ben and jerry's cofounder talking about the origins of his vermont-based company and its socially responsible mission. he was keynote speaker at the
university of michigan conference in september. it is about 45 minutes. >> it is an absolute pleasure to introduce the next guest. he is known for a couple of different things. iconic way for the brand of ice cream that has helped many of us get through long nights and oppression. ben and jerry's have helped many of us through rough spots. he is becoming one of the faces of social entrepreneurship and cognitive business. -- and positive business. all the way from vermont, please help me welcome jerry greenfield. [cheers and applause]
>> swag aplenty. we have t-shirts. welcome. mr. greenfield: wonderful to be here. >> so last night, you were scooping ice cream? mr. greenfield: i was not. so ben and jerry's has a local franchise scoop job. -- scoop shop. i was doing a jerry appearance. morning istewart this , was jerry for an hour last night. it was very exciting. >> and there is so much in your story, but i think for many who have not heard the origin story of ben and jerry's, i would love it if you share it. mr. greenfield: should i talk with you, talk with a people? >> yes, some combination of those things. [laughter] mr. greenfield: just briefly, ben and i are friends from junior high school. we met in seventh grade gym
class running around the track, where we were the two slowest, fattest kids in the class. i went to college and rejected from all the medical schools i applied to. then went to three or four colleges, which he had dropped out of. ben went to colgate and dropped out, nyu and dropped out. and skidmore and dropped out. he signed up with a progressive program called university without walls. so at university without walls, you don't have to go to class,
because the world is your campus, and you do not have to take tests. you get credit for learning. and ben dropped out of there, too. [laughter] mr. greenfield: so there is the entrepreneur we're looking for, the person that drops out and doesn't finish. ben and i were failing at everything we were trying to do, and we just decided to open up a homemade ice cream parlor and thought we would do it for a couple years and then move on to something else. we learned to make ice cream from a $5 correspondence course. we started with $8,000 and borrowed another $4000. we opened up in 1978 in burlington, vermont, in an abandoned gas station. essentially, we had no idea what we were doing. >> when you hear those in the same sentence, all right, i am going to go to one of the coldest cities in the country and hope to sell ice cream -- if somebody pitched you on that today, how would you respond?
mr. greenfield: we would respond the same way all the banks responded to when we asked them for money. [laughter] it does not sound like a really good idea. >> despite that, is still became ben and jerry's/ how did you get past that? mr. greenfield: not only despite that, but in some reason because of that. so ben & jerry's was a real artistic success as a homemade ice cream parlor. however, it is a very short ice cream season in burlington, vermont. and we were not really sustainable. so we ended up packaging ice cream in pint containers and selling it to grocery stores, locally, and eventually found some other markets to go to. and so it was actually the idea
that we could not sell enough ice cream in the summer in vermont to stay in business. that forced us to look for other markets. >> from that initial beginning, sales to restaurants and mom and pops and national distribution, there was a point at which you were no longer two guys and a hand crank maker in a small shop. you were becoming a business, and enterprise. how did you manage that? mr. greenfield: we were becoming a business. >> you were becoming a business. [laughter] mr. greenfield: we thought we were going to become ice cream guys. sure enough, you know, it was shocking to us, because, you know, ben and i wanted to have a little ice cream shop, and we wanted to make and scoop ice cream to our customers. when we found ourselves becoming
a business, we really didn't like it. you know, for you guys who are students here of that age, you may have grandparents who lived through the 1960's. you guys have read about the 1960's in history books and peace and love and hippies and all that. you know, that was ben and me, and we had negative feelings about business. and so we were actually going to get out of the business. and ben ran into a friend of his who convinced him that if there were things we didn't like about business, if we thought of businesses as these entities that took advantage of employees or spoiled the environment or exploited communities -- that is
the way we saw business, clearly, that is who we were, but it we do not like those things, we could just change it and essentially make our business anything we wanted it to be. so we made a conscious decision to try to have our business evolve to something that supported employees, supported the community, and did not destroy the environment. >> when a lot of, especially growing, companies run into those transitions of growth, one of the first things they need is more money. often having that extra level of owners of directors and guiding the path of the business makes it harder to stay on the path they want to stay on. how did you deal with that pressure? mr. greenfield: we were lucky, because we were able to combine these values that we had with
our business along with the raising money. and the way we did it, ben discovered this law in vermont that said you could raise money from people in vermont, just within the state of vermont, and so we decided to do that, to raise money from the local community, and do it in a way that had a very low minimum purchase from people. so in that way -- we had a minimum purchase of $126 so that vermonters could buy stock in ben & jerry at the time. so we found a way to get the local community to become owners of the business, so that we didn't have to go to a big financial institution and didn't have to find venture capitalists. we raised $750,000, which was
remarkable to us. and at the end of the offering, one out of every 100 families in vermont had bought stock in ben & jerry's, so we were a community-owned company at that point. >> and the next stage, then you went full public. mr. greenfield: then we decided to have a national public offering about a year later when we needed more money. in conjunction, we decided to establish the ben & jerry's foundation as a charitable arm of the company. because, to us at that time, businesses were essentially machines for making money. so we felt like if we were going to do this business, we needed to give away some money.
so we set up the foundation where the foundation would get 7.5% of the company's pre-tax profits, which was the highest percentage of any publicly held company. for you guys out there, in case you are curious, the corporate average for contributions is around 1.5%. we were essentially at five times that. we wanted to see if we could really make a difference with that much money. and we couldn't. that's what we learned. we set up the foundation. and despite giving this high percentage of money to the foundation, the foundation was overwhelmed, as all the foundations in the country are. and so we wanted to think more about if we wanted to have some social and environmental impact,
and we could not do it with just the money we could give away, how could we really do it? and it was at that point that we realized that the real power of the business was in how we did our business, how we did our day-to-day business activities. >> so what does it look like when a company is running a business for-profit and still taking money into the foundation. but what are the tradeoffs you have to make to stay on that path? mr. greenfield: you know, that is a really good question, stuart, because we had no idea. this is a great thing to know about entrepreneurship or running a business, because there are so many points along the way where you have no idea. you come up to these questions, and you just do not know the answer.
so for us, what it meant was trying to figure out the answer, and that usually involves trying some things -- sometimes they work, usually they do not work, and then you go back and try again. and so we started off by thinking about the normal day-to-day business activities that a business does, whether it's sourcing ingredients, selling ice cream, marketing ice cream, doing your finances, that whole range of things. you know, i think there are a lot of businesses now that actually have an advantage in that the core of their business is involved in either producing products or services that have social benefit. you know, we didn't have that. we were making ice cream, which you could make the case that there is a social benefit for
ice cream. [laughter] mr. greenfield: little bit of a tough case to make. but, you know, i think you see a lot of entrepreneurs now in businesses who are starting out as social entrepreneurs, who are trying to meet a social or environmental need. for us, it meant going back and re-engineering what we were doing. >> it seems like a couple things happened at the same time. you were able to connect back to your core values, and you are also becoming the face of a not just of your company and your brand, these iconic best friends from junior high but the face of that social business movement. mr. greenfield: we were one of a handful of pioneering entrepreneurial companies that
were pushing the ideas of social responsible business. you know, you're probably familiar with patagonia, which is still doing amazing things. the body shop, at that time. stoney farm yogurt. so there were plenty of companies. ben & jerry's has always been kind of more visible, probably because we make ice cream. and i think the other thing about ben & jerry's, we tend to be fairly outspoken about what we're doing. you know, that brings up another interesting issue around, say, doing socially responsible business or whatever. because we would sometimes get criticized -- you know, you guys are talking about all these things you are doing, aren't you patting yourselves on the back and trying to take a lot of credit?
and ben would always say, you need to be willing to talk about what you're doing so you give consumers a choice to be either supporting this kind of business or supporting a more traditional business. you know, consumers are always supporting one business or another, whether they like it, know it or not. when you are buying somebody's product, you are voting with your dollars. >> there were also critics who said you were just cynically using this process a approach to drive customers to your business. mr. greenfield: so here's another thing to know. i hate to be getting into lessons. but whenever you do anything which is not the normal mainstream way to do things, you are going to get the sized.
-- you are going to get criticized. that is the nature of the beast. and you are either going to do the way everybody else does it and not get criticized or you are going to blaze your own path. the whole mainstream environment is always pushing you to do things the way everybody else does it. and so for ben & jerry's, we started getting criticized that we were trying to get customers to buy ice cream by talking about doing good things. and we simply said that it's who we are. it is what we do. and that, yes, it is marketing. yes, if you are trying to be community-based and community-helpful, that helps to market who you are.
if you are doing bad things, that markets who you are also. if you want to be honest and transparent and genuine, that markets your company. >> talk about the ice cream, too, for a minute. mr. greenfield: ok. how about if we stop for a second. are we doing ok? [applause] mr. greenfield: just wanted to check in. >> ice cream, you have loyal, loyal customers. iconic flavors. mr. greenfield: heavy users. >> heavy users. exactly. [laughter] mr. greenfield: ben & jerry's defines a heavy user as having one pint a week. >> you have a lot of heavy users. so the flavors, how much was the
two of you throwing it in the bowl? mr. greenfield: ben came up with all the flavors. you know, i should tell you guys, ben is the entrepreneurial guy between the two of us, sort of the classic entrepreneur, loves to try new things, is fine with making mistakes, has always said he would rather fail at something new there and do something that has already been done before. and i like a manageable agenda. i like to be told what to do. put me in the box, tell me to do this, i'll do it. ben did everything at the company that was creative, entrepreneurial, groundbreaking. he established a social mission,
and he was outspoken about social and political stands. he came up with all the flavors. ben came up with the big chunks of cookies and candies. he cannot really taste, so he also came up with the really strongly flavored ice cream. so that's the flavor story. so ben & jerry's has all these unusual creative flavors that other companies weren't willing to make because they are so much more difficult to make. it is really hard to put big chunks of cookies and candy into ice cream. and for a lot of manufacturers are those guys thinking of manufacturing out there, a lot of manufacturers make what is easy to make as opposed to what
customers want to buy. it's a bizarre thing. >> how did the two of you become the team you did? it's one thing to meet in junior high, but to spend 40 years in business is an incredible accomplishment. how did that happen? mr. greenfield: we are good friends. ben and i have a very similar world view, but we have very different skills. as i said, ben is very creative. i have, in over 40 years, never created one flavor. some murmur out there. [laughter] mr. greenfield: i used to make the ice cream. i would manufacture the ice cream. i would scoop the ice cream. and we have a lot of trust, and i think that helps. ben did all the sales and marketing and all the creative
stuff, and i worked on distribution, manufacturing. and, you know, i think i am smart enough to know that when ben came up with good ideas that were pushing the envelope of what's on the edge, that it was ok to do. i think that has been one hallmark for ben & jerry's over the years, that it has been willing to be on the edge, both of business practices and the issue of social justice and some of those stance. >> one thing that we see a lot now with startups is a goal is often to grow the company large enough that it can be taken
public or acquired or some combination. you have gone through of those experiences. you have taken your company public and then was subsequently acquired. that wasn't your goal. mr. greenfield: when we started, our goal was to do an ice cream shop for a couple of years and make $20,000 a year a piece and then move on to something else. we talked about becoming cross-country truck drivers together. [laughter] mr. greenfield: we were not looking for a career. >> when that moment arrived and you got this giant multinational corporation that wants to buy ben & jerry's, how did you guys respond to that? mr. greenfield: for context of folks, we started in 1978 and ben & jerry's ended up getting
acquired in 2000 and 2001. and we first went public in the state of vermont in 1984, and we went public nationally in 1985. so we had been a public company for about 15 years. and we were what i would describe as fiercely independent. at that time -- about 10 years into the business, we crafted a mission statement that formalized a three-part mission. so there was a product mission, an economic mission, and a social mission. and the social mission explicitly talked about using the power of the business to innovatively address social and environmental issues. so that was part of the mission, and we actually started doing
social impact reports starting in 1985. +in 1985. so we did those annually. at that point, we were measuring our success on both financial and social impact. and so, in 1985 -- in 2000, a company came along and wanted to purchase ben & jerry's, and our response we don't want to be owned by anybody, because we were convinced that any acquirer would be committed to the social mission. it was nothing about anybody. we just felt like any big company was going to be concerned about the financial bottom line. so we tried to find ways to stay independent. ultimately, our board decided that the money that was being
offered was compelling. we sold the business. i can just tell you that, emotionally, for ben and me, it was horrible. and it's been up and down ever since. host: you remained with the company? mr. greenfield: we remained with the company. up until that point we were on the board of directors. when unilever acquired us, they set up an independent board that was made up essentially of the board that had been the board of directors and ben and i declined to be on that board and ever since and even prior to then, we have been on year-to-year employment agreements with ben and jerry's, no news national that renews annually.
want to hear my job description? host: i would love to. mr. greenfield: ben and i work at the company. no responsibility. no authority. that's the deal. [laughter] mr. greenfield: for better or worse. so we essentially do whatever we want. in our employment agreement --and this is pretty pre-unilever. in our employment agreement, it calls for us to provide similar services at a similar level to what we had been doing before. host: nicely vague. mr. greenfield: good job. host: when you look at the land
scape in business today, are you optimistic about the world and the direction it is moving in from a positive business point of view, neutral, negative? mr. greenfield: you know, i think if i had to tell the truth, usually i say optimistic because i think it's a better answer but i'm pretty neutral about it. i mean, realistically, the most powerful force in the world is business. it's more powerful than governments. more powerful than religion. i mean, businesses pretty much control governments and if you look at our country, businesses have huge impact on elections through unlimited campaign contributions.
businesses essentially control legislation through lobbying. businesses control all the mainstream media through ownership, and businesses have huge impact on how we are all treated as employees and consumers. and big business essentially has one goal, who knows what the one goal of big business is? >> money. mr. greenfield: maximize profit, right? and so by and large, oversimplifying, generally speaking what business is trying to do is make more money. it's not that business is good or evil. businesses are just trying to make money. and it uses this power without regard to social impact, without
regard to environmental impact, because it doesn't measure those things. it measures one thing, the financial bottom line. and so am i optimistic? i'm optimistic that people who are starting their own businesses or people who are going to work for other businesses have a larger picture in mind. and that the young people today currently going into business are going to change business. host: going back to that moment when you and then said -- ben said, let's do things differently. and the idea that you get what you measure and it's hard to identify and keep track of those things, a couple of examples to
give people a sense of a, the challenge you had. mr. greenfield: so, a few examples, i mentioned ben and jerry's looks at sources of ingredients, we came up with an ice cream flavor that uses brownies from a bakery in new york city that are works with people who are formerly homeless or people who are formerly in prison or people who have all sorts of issues and the good news is we have that flavor here today, chocolate funneling -- fudge brownie. ben & jerry's sells ice cream. i mentioned some of the ice cream shops. we have some franchised ice cream shops that are owned and operated by nonprofits, social service agencies. so those are some examples of trying to integrate into the
product or into the sales these social or environmental concerns. other businesses do a good job of that. i think one area that ben & jerry's has been unusual in and continues to be unusual in is speaking out about issues. if ben were here, what he would tell you is probably the most powerful thing that business has, is its voice. that when businesses talk, people listen, politicians listen, the media listens, because business people, business people, people like me are well respected and well regarded. we are people that know how to meet payroll. we look at a bottom line. we know what is going on, so businesses are looked at.
so ben & jerry's has used its voice to talk about political issues, sometimes controversial issues. ben and jerry's has been publicly supportive of occupy wall street, which is essentially an anticorporate movement. ben & jerry's has been outspoken about marriage equality. ben & jerry's has been outspoken in campaigning about mandatory labeling of genetically modified ingredients in food. ben & jerry's is outspoken about voting rights and voter suppression. and as you might imagine, not everybody agrees with all these positions, so ben & jerry's is actively speaking out on issues that is losing its customers. amazing. [applause]
mr. greenfield: why would a business do that, stewart? [laughter] host: i know there are folks in the audience who i'm sure have questions. i've had the pleasure of monopolizing you for a few minutes. are there some questions? one at the front. holly? we just have a couple of these because we do have ice cream -- mr. greenfield: can i answer the question first, why would a business do that? host: please. mr. greenfield: it turns out it is not really bad for business. it turns out, has ben says, you are never going to get 100% market share. not everybody is going to buy your product or service. and it is much more powerful to connect with your customers, with your employees, over shared values of trying to make the world more humane, make the world a better place.
if you lose some customers in the process, that is ok. what people want is businesses that are genuine, that are honest. you know, that have some edge. that is what everybody is talking about, right? you want to have edge? stand for something. tell the truth. make it part of your business. host: thank you. question. mr. greenfield: hello. >> hi, thank you so much. this talk took some unexpected turns that i really enjoyed. my question is brief. i'm curious about how when you were acquired, how did it shape or reshape the mission statement that you shared earlier or any conflicts that came up. mr. greenfield: did everybody here the question? how did it reshape the mission? it did not reshape the mission at all, but what that mission is
really based on is -- it is based on the people at ben & jerry's and the people within unilever wanting to carry out the mission. so for the first several years after ben & jerry's was acquired, i think most of the energy went into integrating ben & jerry's into the family and making it more like everything else. the social mission was not really as active, and within the last five years, there has been a real resurgence of the social mission. the ceo of ben & jerry's is committed to the values of the company. the ceo of unilever has a real strong sustainability focus, and
so to a certain degree, it matters less what is written on the mission statement and it matters much more about people's commitment to making it happen. host: thank you. great question. another one over here. >> hi. it was really nice hearing you talk. what is your favorite flavor of ben & jerry's ice cream? [laughter] >> i'm just curious. mr. greenfield: my favorite flavor is americone dream, a vanilla ice cream with caramel swirl, fudge covered pieces of waffle cones. [laughter] mr. greenfield: for you that are interested, i think within the top five flavors, jerry garcia, garcia half-baked, , tonight dough has moved into the top five. i think chunky monkey is close to the top five. [laughter] mr. greenfield: and cookie dough always up there.
host: we have a few of those today. mr. greenfield: we do, we have cookie dough, chocolate fudge brownie, jerry garcia. -- cherry garcia. the sooner we stop talking -- [applause] [laughter] host: no pressure, but we are going to make this last question. >> hi. [inaudible] talk about how different flavors really to different things i'm involved in and my personality. i was wondering if you have a flavor you think embodies you or something you are passionate about, in issue you care about. mr. greenfield: as i mentioned, ben & jerry's currently has a campaign about voter suppression and reauthorizing the voting rights act, which was recently overturned in the supreme court. and so, that flavor is called empowerment, which is a peppermint ice cream with fudge brownies and a chocolate swirl.
can i tell one last -- i will tell one story. i talked about ben & jerry's using its voice around a product. it was really part of the transition within ben & jerry's of becoming this company that was willing to use its voice and take on issues. so this was probably in the early 1990's. ben & jerry's was coming out with a chocolate covered ice cream bar on a stick. you know, chocolate bar. and ben wanted to call it a peace pop. this was during the height of the cold war. which you have read about in your history books. [laughter] mr. greenfield: there was a big military buildup with united states and the former soviet union. ben wanted to call this the peace pop and on the packaging,
instead of talking about what an indulgent product it was, to talk about redirecting money out of the military budget and redirecting it to peace through understanding activities, so that people in the united states and soviet union would get to know each other. and as they got to know each other, they would realize that they had the same interests -- wanted to take care of their families, they may be more interested in each other and less interested in bombing the crap out of each other. ben brought this to the company and it was a huge internal debate. we are going to call it a peace pop, talking about the military budget on the packaging, we will be talking about redirecting money -- 1% of the military
budget to this nonprofit called 1% for peace, which conveniently was going to be set up by ben and he was on the board of directors. so people were saying, we're going to be seen as criticizing a government program, unpatriotic, we're going to be seen as -- people are going to boycott the product. they are -- whatever. and ben as the entrepreneur and founder -- all you guys out there, entrepreneurs and founders, you ready for this -- he shoved it down the company's throat. [laughter] mr. greenfield: he said, we are going to do this. and we did it and nothing bad happened. nobody boycotted the company. sales were fine. even people who did not agree wihe