Profiles in Sustainability: Ben & Jerry’s Sustainability Event at Champlain College by Kiera Hufford ’18

Ben & Jerry’s Sustainability Event
by Kiera Hufford ’18

During the Spring 2016 semester, a team of faculty members worked to design and run an event centered around Ben & Jerry’s and their social responsibility policy. The event was launched on April 3, 2016, and was the first time it had taken place.

The [Stiller] School of Business decided to redesign an activity for Accepted Students Day around the idea of creating a new flavor for Ben & Jerry’s,” said Professor Lindsey Godwin, one of the faculty members who coordinated the event. “Part of the thought behind that was introducing them to business concepts in a fun way.”

Ben & Jerry’s has a social responsibility that’s composed of three parts: a Product Mission (to ensure the quality of their products), an Economic Mission (to manage the company in a way that allows for sustainable financial growth), and a Social Mission (to make sure the company is doing their part to make the world a better place).

The event, called the “Do Us a Flavor Challenge,” was created in a way that would teach the students how to work with a company that had a social responsibility. Students were tasked with creating an ice cream that would benefit a charity, non-profit, or other sustainable organization that had a social mission. They were put into teams, told to create a marketing strategy, figure out the cost per pint of their ice cream, and had to consider exactly how their flavor would connect to the broader social mission. How would the name relate to the cause/organization they were helping? What ingredients could they include to tie it all together?

ben-and-jerrys

“One of the flavors students came up with was Panda-monium,” said Godwin. “It was vanilla and chocolate ice cream and they were [going to] have panda-shaped junior mints. Part of the proceeds would go to help panda bear conservation.” Other flavor ideas included Save a Snicker Poodle, which would have snickerdoodle cookie bits and help the SPCA, and Firecracker, which would have cayenne and promote fire safety.

Students who felt strongly about their flavors and saw value in the idea could go to Ben & Jerry’s website and submit a flavor idea. While Ben & Jerry’s is not required or committed to creating those flavors, the students are free to put their ideas out there.

As a special treat for the students, Ben & Jerry’s catered the event and provided ice cream afterward. The employees who were scooping the ice cream also helped judge the flavors. Since they worked with Ben & Jerry’s, they were able to determine whether they thought the flavor would be successful or not.

The challenge also served as a way for business faculty to collaborate while designing an activity to educate potential students on business practices. Joe O’Grady, one of the other faculty members who devised the event, runs a similar version in his innovation classes.

“Hopefully it will be something we do in the future at other Accepted Student events,” said Godwin. “It was an idea that had gotten brainstormed at a faculty retreat. We ran it as an experiential class they might experience in the School of Business. We wanted to focus on highlighting a socially responsible, sustainable, ethical company.”

Awards were given out to successful teams: the Cha-Ching Award, the Whole-Brain-Thinker Award, the Global Citizen Award, the Communicator Award, the Innovator Award, the Vincent Van Gogh Award, and the Life-Long Learner Award. Each award was linked to the School of Business competencies, which are defined skills that the business school aims to teach its students across all four years.

The “Do Us a Flavor Challenge” contributes to the idea of sustainability when we look at the way the students had to collaborate and tie-in their flavors with a charity, organization, or cause. A socially responsible company, like Ben & Jerry’s, is actively working to help sustain the charities and organizations that make the world a better place. An event like this gives students the upper-hand, the chance to learn what it’s like to work with a socially responsible business and be a part of the process.

Thanks to Lindsey Godwin, Bob Bloch, Tom Myers, Don Haggerty, Charlie Nagelschmidt, Elaine Young, Joe O’Grady, William Hancy, Scott Baker, and Emily Rice, Business Management and Innovation ’17, for designing and running an event that promotes social responsibility and sustainability.

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