Table of Contents
Ben and Jerry’s, which is one of the famous global brands in ice cream, came into existence in 1978 in Burlington, Vermont (Ben&Jerry’s, 2017a). Two college dropped out students, Ben Cohen and Jerry Green field, who were childhood friends, stated the company Ben and Jerry’s (Neubauer, 2016). The founders developed their business on social value and ethics with a vision to contribute positively towards the society (Cummings, & Worley, 2009). Ben and Jerry’s ensured its employees’ wellbeing and offered the best ice creams to its customers. The company became a success and when it made sale of about 50 million dollars, the owners took up the policy of improving the standard of living of the employees. The vision of Ben and Jerry’s was to become a positive contributor to the community of the company as well as the nation. The owners were innovative and were popularly called “Vermont hippies” (Acitelli, 2013). Ben and Jerry’s ice creams are available in retail stores, restaurants, departmental stores as well as grocery shops, exhibiting their wide distributive system (Ben&Jerry’s. 2017a).
In 1983, Ben and Jerry’s made the largest sundae ice cream in the world weighing 27,102 pounds (Ben&Jerry, 2017a). In the next year, the company wanted to build a new plant and started offering stocks and shares to the public. It gives 7.5 % of its profits to projects, which enhance the community life (Piercy, 2012). The ice cream company’s products are free of Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), which has adverse effects on the cattle (Ben&Jerry’s, 2017b). Ben and Jerry’s contributed to a number of social projects, one of which is the Children’s Defense Fund that aimed at providing basic needs to the children of the country (Ben&Jerry’s, 2017a). The year 1999 witnessed the Flying Friesian, organised by Ben and Jerry’s. It is a bus on tour designed for recreational purposes, and is a fund raiser in disguise for the kids-in-need.
During 2000s, Unilever bought Ben and Jerry’s. The owners of Ben and Jerry’s claimed that they had to do it as a compulsion (Ercoline, 2014). The corporate law forced them to accept Unilever’s offer for the sake of the shareholders. New set of independent Board of Directors, which was formed, provided the company with advices on expansion of the business as well as on social measures that the company can undertake. After the acquisition, Yves Couette became the CEO of the division of Ben and Jerry’s (Edmondson, 2014). Lawrence (2015) said that most of the leaders are incapable to handle the change. The new leader of Ben and Jerry’s made efforts to have a cordial and friendly rapport with the employees of the ice cream company, but faced problems in maintaining the social mission of Ben and Jerry’s. Yves Couette felt that the founders were more generous with their social schemes than any other company. He undertook radical measures to cope with the decreasing profits, which included closing down a few of the plants and resorted to downsizing, causing a lot of Ben and Jerry’s employees to lose their job (Caligiuri, 2014). Lawrence (2015) said that m
The recent years have witnessed decreasing trend in number of shops of Ben and Jerry’s and loss of popularity. The prime reason behind is the mismanagement and lack of adaptability among the employees. A number of cases has been reported, where the franchise of Ben and Jerry’s have gone bankrupt. Furthermore, the change in management accompanied a number of conflicts within the company (Frankel, & Bromberger, 2013). I personally worked as a summer intern with the company and thus witnessed the vulnerable state of the employees in the company who became homeless or lost their jobs.
Need for Change
Ben and Jerry’s rose to become the best ice cream makers after a decade in the business. The company started off in a garage, which gradually became the most popular ice cream franchise worldwide. It also is famous for the social activities and supported the fair trade movement, which involves working towards the improvement of the lives of the farmers, and protecting the nature at the same time (Ben&Jerry’s, 2017c). Its downfall started when it was acquired by Unilever, which had a different set of objectives and idealised profit. In order to increase the profit margin, Unilever adopted a number of policies such as opened retail outlets of Ben and Jerry’s in every locality, which did not work. The sudden change in the environment was a shock to the employees of Ben and Jerry’s, whereas they were accustomed to work as a consolidated unit and it prevented the implementation of change. The expansion required efficiency and expertise, which the employees lacked, thus creating problems for the business (Phillips, 2014). Often the organizational change in the company’s results in falling profits, which Unilever faced after the takeover of Ben and Jerry’s (Andersson, 2015).
Ben and Jerry’s with its new management lost its original values, with which it had started. The franchise stores raised their voice calling the ice cream company unethical (Schwartz, & Saiia, 2012). They claim that the weight of the shipments does not match with what the company promised. Ben and Jerry’s also did not pay much attention to the promotion of such stores, making it very difficult for the franchise owners to raise their profits. In fact, the store owners were also heard of complaining against the degrading quality of the ice creams. The sales figures were forged to show higher profits and lure the franchise owners to sale Ben and Jerry’s ice creams (Schwartz & Saiia, 2012).
The company has also faced legal complexities involving the investigation undertaken by the watchdog group which is a centre for Science working for the interest of the people (Rainey, 2015). This group has found out that Ben and Jerry’s claimed to make ice creams with natural products, which was not correct. The group researched and found that five flavours of ice cream contained artificial flavours and ingredients such as, alkalised cocoa, dextrose, and hydrogenated oils that were chemically modified. The centre also reported that the materials used to make the ice cream of Ben and Jerry’s were far from natural, opposing the company’s claim to use “natural” ingredients. In fact, the ingredients were artificial and chemically processed in the factories. The centre has gone to the extent of warning Ben and Jerry’s that if the company does not change the label of making natural ice cream, it would take the help of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to solve the issue (Weaver, 2013; Rainey, 2015).
Ben and Jerry’s always uses innovative ideas to help its business and society, but the company’s plans backfire at it only. The machines that produced the ice creams like Cherry Garcia, Chunky Monkey, and Rainforest Crunch, were washed with water and the water was given to a pig farm as part of the social gesture from the company. Although the intention behind this was noble, the pigs which tasted the ice cream mixed water, suffered from arteriosclerosis like humans (Valentine, 2012). Also, the pork made from these pigs contained fat, which was beyond the normal level.
Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is not just famous for its delicious taste, but also because of the company’s initiative to save the environment and improve the society. However, the company itself practiced degrading the nature and the society. The cows in the dairy farms of Ben and Jerry’s lived in very bad conditions with the incorporation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) (Mercola, 2017). The cows were injected drugs so that the production of milk could be enhanced. They were also milked very frequently and not allowed to go out of the confinement.
In 2017, the dairy farms that provide milk to Ben and Jerry’s protested against the authorities of the company. They were on the streets for protesting, because the working conditions in the farms deemed unfit to the workers. The workers marched on the streets of Montpelier, Vermont and then supporters joined them at Park & Ride in Waterbury, Vermont (Boston Herald, 2017). Together the protestors marched to Ben and Jerry’s, supported by many well-known people of the country. “Milk with Dignity”, which was a programme launched by Vermont Daily farmers, aimed to improve the working conditions of the farmers of the dairy farms. The human rights say that the condition for working should at least be dignified (Donnelly, 2013). The farmers worked daily in the farms without a leave so they demanded for a one day leave per week, which is yet to be granted by the new Board of Directors of Ben and Jerry’s (Ring, 2017). The firm needs to collect both organisational level and individual level data to make the necessary changes directed towards improving the situation.
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Today’s age is of globalisation, where there are large MNCs ruling the trade (Held, 2013). Burnes, & Jackson (2011) stated that 70% of the change initiatives do not succeed as the values of the organisation fails to match with the new environment. Unilever could not give up on its essence of making profits and thus tried to expand the business, using new technologies and laid off many employees. Likewise, it should have maintained the values of Ben and Jerry’s, which brought them ample success. The customers of Ben and Jerry’s enjoyed the warm reception, the quirky style by which means the company promoted its products. Unilever failed to understand the ideologies of the former company and thus took decisions that were proved to be unsuccessful.
The problem that Ben and Jerry’s faced with the franchise owners could be solved, if the company would have been honest with them. Ben and Jerry’s should correct itself by re checking the loopholes in the process of packaging and transportation so that the weights of the shipments are accurate. The company should also not give false hope about the sales figures to the franchise owners, as they invest a lot of capital in the business, in return of which they expect adequate sales and profit. If Ben and Jerry’s would provide correct figures to the owners, they would be able to plan their investments on the shops accordingly, thus preventing themselves from going bankrupt. These franchise owners are not able to have high sales, because the customers were not aware of the new retail shops of Ben and Jerry’s. The company should promote these franchisees so that the customers know about the location of the shops. These small changes in the planning of Ben and Jerry’s can stop the rising distress among the franchise owners and also increase the sales of the products of the company.
Ben and Jerry’s should avoid misleading its customers by giving them such wrong information about its products. This will the company from all the legal complications, preserving its reputation in the market. The company must do a thorough assessment before implementing its decisions. It was an innovative idea of waste management on Ben and Jerry’s part to feed the machine washed water to the pigs, but lack of research about the effects of it caused them to suffer from diseases and other abnormality. The extra ice creams from the machines can be collected and donated to the schools and poor children, who can also enjoy them.
Ben and Jerry’s should stop dairy production, which is non-organic. Besides, using of pesticides in the farms can prove to be toxic to the nature. The firm should provide the animals in the farms with proper living conditions, care and nutritious food. In addition the water bodies near the farms are being polluted due to the toxic waste from the farms, so proper waste management system should be used.
Ben and Jerry’s should grant one day of leave to the workers and appropriate wages. There should be a committee that would look after the implementation of the recommendations. After signing the agreement that the quality of the milk would improve, Ben and Jerry’s should abide by the regulations and quality standards set by the “Milk with Dignity” programme. The farmers should be provided with homes and other basic necessities.
Unilever needs to develop training programmes to enhance the skill of the employees so that they can adapt to the new scenario of Ben and Jerry’s. The company should change the management in such a way that the staffs are able to take part in the decision making process and achieve their long term goals. Companies, like Ben Jerry’s undergoing a change should appoint research and development team to manage the turbulent system which can be regarded as an external intervention (Manning, & Binzagr, 1996). The driving force behind the change would be the management of Unilever and its human resource department. They would create the necessary conditions that would help in guiding the employees to adapt the change. The profitability of Ben and Jerry’s and the restoration of the reputability of the concerned brand will reflect the success. The company should develop an action plan to implement the recommendations where the latter would be the steps that needs to be achieved. Ben and Jerry’s can amend its marketing strategies with the incorporation of a clear message to make the customers aware of the improvement in their production process as well as the products. Independent audit should be conducted to review the progress of the company.
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