Sean Greenwood, Director of Public Relations and Communications at Ben & Jerry’s, spoke to Temple PRSSA’s members on April 13 with his presentation “Using PR for Good Vs. Evil - How Ben & Jerry’s Communicates for Progressive Change.” Greenwood has been with Ben & Jerry’s for over three decades, beginning in 1988 as a member of the Vermont-based company’s Special Events and Tours department. From there, he worked his way through a number of roles within the company until reaching his current position, which he has held since 2005.
Greenwood began his presentation by explaining that Ben & Jerry’s sees itself not as an ice cream company, but as “an aspiring social justice company that happens to make ice cream.” He added that one of the company’s underlying philosophies since its 1978 inception was that businesses have a responsibility to give back to their communities.
Throughout the years, Ben & Jerry’s has not been afraid to stand up for what it believes is right and back up those beliefs with action. Greenwood sees this social mission as the differentiator between the company and its competitors, saying, “it’s not for sales, we do it because we believe in it.” In a time where many are expecting large businesses to assist in fighting the pressing issues of today, Ben & Jerry’s is leading the way.
Recent company-led initiatives have centered around increasing voting registration, combating environmental issues, bringing more Black-owned businesses into the supply chain process, and dismantling systemic racism. Greenwood described how Ben & Jerry’s is completely transparent about being political, yet is not partisan, citing that they have fought against legislative policies spearheaded by both major American political parties.
Another primary point was that Ben & Jerry’s avoids cause-related marketing (where the goal is to build the brand), instead favoring values-led activism (where the goal is to create progressive social change). Company culture and practices are also important to Ben and Jerry’s. The ice cream icon strives to make its workplace an environment where people of all backgrounds feel welcome and supported.
In October 2019, Congressman John Lewis, a historic civil rights icon, spoke to employees at Ben & Jerry’s headquarters in Vermont. Soon thereafter, a partnership was formed to create a graphic novel trilogy celebrating Lewis’ life and the causes he fought for. Today, Ben & Jerry’s sees its social justice impact as “necessary trouble” - taking inspiration from Lewis’ famed quote. Looking towards the future, expect Ben & Jerry’s to continue striving to create progressive changes for years to come.
This blog post was written by Erik Potts, Digital Committee Member.