Social Responsibility and Growth
Ben and Jerry’s definitely faces a problem in the conflict of perceptions and mission with its new parent company, Unilever. While Unilever also has attended to issues of corporate social responsbility, it nevertheless lacks the strong orientation toward social values that Ben and Jerry’s has developed. However, it seems feasible that Ben and Jerry’s continue with their social mission, given the current situation in the consumer market. As a consumer goods company, Ben and Jerrry’s is highly dependent on the tastes and feelings of its consumers.
Therefore, the company will often experience increases in sales attributable to changing consumer tastes. The image of a socially responsible company can help increase ice-cream sales. For example, the image of a protector of farmers stemming from the opposition to the bovine growth hormone can help the company improve its position in the market by appealing to a socially responsible category of consumers. It is worth noting that this group is growing all the time due to increase in socially responsible consumption.
At the same time, continuation with the social mission would mean preservation of Ben and Jerry’s cultural values. It is not easy to change the company’s culture overnight, and Unilever seems to be trying to do so by appointing Yves Courvette as CEO. His plans obviously clash with the perceptions and values of Ben and Jerry’s leadership and people. Therefore, it is extremely important for them to learn to collaborate and respect each other’s culture.
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For Unilever, this means in the first place respectful acceptance of Ben and Jerry’s socially oriented mission. Therefore, preservation of the social mission is important for Ben and Jerry’s. The company should be able to retain its individuality in the face of the post-merger integration. Even more importantly, it should be able to retain its links with the consumers that it gained through its non-traditional advertising. Social mission should lay the foundation for future success.
Case 9: Ben and Jerry’s Homemade: Social Responsibility and Growth.