Ben and Jerry’s Didn’t Sell Out

Ben & Jerry’s Didn’t Sell Out

Last spring, when Dutch multinational Unilever bought ice cream
maker Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, many mourned the selling out of a
paragon of socially-responsible business. Not so, says Terry
Mollner, a leading figure in the socially-responsible investment
world and a member of the company’s board. Rather, he argues, the
way Unilever purchased Ben & Jerry’s ‘suggest[s] the beginnings
of a new movement: the maturation of capitalism.’

Writing in the fall issue of GreenMoney Journal,
Mollner gives a fascinating account of his four-month crusade to
save Ben & Jerry’s from a hostile takeover bid that would have
ended the company’s progressive social mission. Citing a Wall
Street Journal study that named Ben & Jerry’s the country’s
fifth most-respected brand, Mollner tried unsuccessfully to pull
together a group of investors to outbid ice cream giant

When Unilever expressed interest in buying the company, Mollner
convinced them to consider the value of Ben & Jerry’s
progressive image. In the end, says Mollner, ‘To the surprise of
all, Unilever allowed Ben & Jerry’s to remain a separate
subsidiary corporation with the same board of directors continuing
to direct the company.’ In addition, Unilever, the world’s largest
producer of consumer goods, ‘requested that representatives from
Ben & Jerry’s serve on a committee to improve their social
impacts in the 120 countries in which the $55 billion company

The question everybody is asking, says Mollner, is ”Will Unilever
become more like us or us more like them?’ I am absolutely
confident that nature, evolution, cooperation, maturation, and love
are with us and that the leadership at Unilever will continue to
join us in it. It is only an issue of how far and how fast.’
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