By: Katie Thompson
I scream, you scream, we all scream for social justice (and ice cream!).
On September 23rd PRSSA Kent sat down with Sean Greenwood, Director of Communications and Public Relations at Ben & Jerry’s. Greenwood discussed the company’s strategies for partnering its love of ice cream with the need to change the world with his presentation titled “When Silence is Not An Option.”
The first Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop opened in 1978 in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont. Since its opening, Ben & Jerry’s has operated on a three-part mission; economic, social and product.
“The thought is that they are equally weighted,” Greenwood said, “we want to equally provide support and interest for each of these.”
Ben & Jerry’s takes an active role in fighting for the issues they believe in. “We get out on the streets,” Greenwood explained as he showed photos of Ben & Jerry’s employees marching in climate change marches and pride parades.
But why do it? Why does a company known for its delicious ice cream flavors with wacky names care so much about changing the world? In the words of Ben, “Businesses have the responsibility to give back.”
It’s typical for organizations to focus on cause-related marketing when it comes to selling a product. This means that a company focuses on consumer interest and how it can align its brand with what the consumer cares about to build a brand. Greenwood explained that Ben & Jerry’s focuses on the issues they care about rather than what the consumer wants to reach the goal of progressive social change through values-led activism.
“We look at the change we want to see,” Greenwood said, “how do we take that stance, share what is it that we believe, and take our fans and the public at large with us on that journey.”
Greenwood also discussed how the company speaks out on controversial political issues without being partisan. Rather than promoting a specific candidate, Ben & Jerry’s gets involved with the issues they believe in, but they can’t do it alone.
Ben & Jerry’s expertise is in ice cream making. When it comes to educating and taking a stance on issues such as climate change and racial justice, they make a point to partner with reputable organizations that can coach them through making a real impact.
When talking about these highly opinionated topics, it’s expected to receive backlash. When dealing with backlash, Greenwood explained that he does receive backlash from the press releases he puts out on social justice issues, but those messages are emails from individuals thanking him for his support. Those messages remind him of the importance of the work Ben & Jerry’s is doing.
“When you take values and match them with your own, that’s where you don’t go wrong.”
After hearing from Sean Greenwood, it is clear that Ben & Jerry’s is more than just an ice cream company. Ice cream has become their vessel for sharing their stance on social justice issues and educating the public on these issues. To hear Sean’s full presentation, please view the video below.