By Tina Rosenberg
Eleven years ago, the Vermont-based ice cream-maker Ben and Jerry’s found itself in a position other companies might have found enviable. Several firms were bidding to buy it. The top bid was from the Dutch conglomerate Unilever.
But Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield didn’t want to sell to Unilever. They had built the company with the mission of serving what has come to be known as the “triple bottom line” — profits, people and planet. The company offered voter registration along with its ice cream, paid employees living wages and good benefits, donated 7.5 percent of its profits to charity, and bought Brazil nuts from a cooperative of indigenous Amazon farmers and brownies from a bakery famous for hiring people fresh out of prison. Ben and Jerry worried that a Unilever-owned company would quickly become focused purely on profit.