Oregon Live: Ben & Jerry's co-founder Jerry Greenfield talks business ethics, non-profit partners and Occupy Wall Street (Q&A)

November 2nd, 2011

Oregon Live
November 2, 2011
By, Elliot Njus

Ice cream mogul Jerry Greenfield — better known by his first name, especially paired with onetime business partner Ben Cohen — says it’s possible for companies to integrate their values into their business and still make money.

Greenfield and Cohen founded Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s in 1978, and the company — now a unit of the Unilever conglomerate — has built a brand around environmental and social stewardship as well as its ice cream.

Greenfield was in Portland on Wednesday to speak at Portland State University’s Conference on Business and Sustainability and to promote his company’s partnership with New Avenues for Youth, a Portland nonprofit that offers job experience to homeless and at-risk youth in part through two Ben & Jerry’s “partner shops.”

He sat down with The Oregonian to talk about socially minded business, the Occupy Wall Street movement — he’s scooping at Occupy Seattle later this week — and, briefly, ice cream.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You’re here to advocate for socially and environmentally-aware business. How do you make the case?

Businesses can lead with their values and make money, too. You don’t have to simply be purely profit-driven. You can integrate social and environmental concerns into a business, be a caring business, be a generous business and still do very well financially. It’s counter to the conventional thinking about business. The conventional thinking is you need concentrate solely on making money and not stand for anything.

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