Fastlane

April 25, 2014

Earth Week Guest Post: Why Ben & Jerry’s Signed the Climate Declaration (Or, If It’s Melted It’s Ruined)

For Earth Week, we are running guest posts from a number of influential companies and individuals in sustainability. Today's post is written by Chris Miller, Ben & Jerry's.

At Ben & Jerry’s we know a little something about the importance of temperature.  Not unlike our climate, ice cream has a perfect temperature window.  Too cold, and it’s hard to scoop and loses some of its creamy texture and mouth feel.  Too warm and, well, our founder Ben Cohen said it best: “If it’s melted, it’s ruined.”

This Earth Week, it’s worth reflecting back to last April when some of the biggest and most iconic companies and brands in the country signed the Climate Declaration. With more than 600 signatories, the Declaration brought together companies as diverse as Apple, Nike, Microsoft, General Motors, and the Portland Trail Blazers, around the principle that climate change is one of our country’s greatest economic opportunities.  That’s it’s not just about being green, it’s about making green.

All of the companies that signed the Declaration are doing work within their businesses to make themselves more efficient, sustainable, and cost effective.  When we reduce energy use at our ice cream plant in St. Albans, Vermont, not only do we reduce the carbon footprint of our business, we save money which means we have more to invest in new equipment and machinery that creates more jobs and more euphoric ice cream. It’s clear to us that solutions to climate change will boost the American economy, drive innovation and job creation that will result in economic expansion that can’t be outsourced.

However, the business community can’t do this alone.  Companies must do more than simply look inside for ways to make themselves more sustainable and profitable. They must engage externally with consumers, customers, and most importantly, policy makers. That’s why the Climate Declaration is so important.  It puts all our companies on the record.  Collective stakeholders must now hold all of our businesses accountable.

There is a strong business case to be made for action on climate change for many of our companies. Take Ben & Jerry’s for example. Other than melting ice cream, what sort of danger does climate change pose?  Well, as a food company Ben & Jerry’s uses more than 150 ingredients in roughly 50 flavors.  Ben & Jerry’s supply chain is global, sourcing vanilla from Madagascar and Uganda, coffee from Mexico, cocoa from Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

This year an epic drought in Brazil has threatened coffee exports from the world’s largest coffee exporter and is threatening to increase wholesale prices worldwide.  That’s bad news for coffee ice cream fans and Ben & Jerry’s bottom line.  Climate scientists are warning that within the next 50 years, it’s possible that approximately 50 percent of banana plantations in Central and South America could become unsuitable for the production and export of bananas.  That’s bad news for Chunky Monkey fans.

To take advantage of the economic opportunity described in the Climate Declaration, we believe there are three things that the companies should do:

  1. Continue to focus on reducing the footprint of our businesses.
  2. Make a clear and articulate business case for action on climate change to our elected leaders and policy makers.  Not just once, but often and until we make progress.
  3. Collectively engage and enlist our fans, consumers, and customers to support our call to ensure America remains the leaders in green technology and innovation.

Businesses need to be clear.  There is a vibrant and emerging green global economy.  The question is, will the United States lead it or be left behind?  This is America’s to win, but we can’t win if we don’t show up on the field.  Let’s make sure that next Earth Day we are winning.

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miller

Chris Miller is a social mission activism manager for Ben & Jerry’s.

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