Case Study – Ben and Jerry

The state of Vermont has been no stranger to paving the path for social justice in America. It is the first state to introduce civil unions and now holds the title as the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by enacting it through a bill rather than in response to a required court decision. (Wikipedia) In April of 2009, Vermont became the fourth state to legalize gay and lesbian marriage. With the bill set to take effect on September 1, 2009, Ben & Jerry’s created a campaign to coincide with the bill’s introduction in its home state. (PRSA)

Ben & Jerry’s is a premium, American ice cream company created by lifelong friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. It was founded in Burlington, Vermont in 1978 where it is currently headquartered today. Cohen, a college dropout, and Greenfield, a recent college grad, decided to open an ice cream shop because they felt they needed to do something with themselves. After splitting the cost of a correspondence course on ice cream-making from Penn State University, they leased an old gas station building and opened the first Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop.

The rest is history. Since opening its first Scoop Shop in 1978, Ben & Jerry’s has expanded into a widely successful brand and leader in ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet manufacturing. Their ice cream can be found in all corners of the world, 26 different countries to be exact. Its products are distributed in grocery stores, restaurants, franchise Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops and other venues worldwide. Besides achieving great economical success, the company makes significant product donations to community groups and nonprofits across the nation.

The purpose of Ben & Jerry’s philanthropy is to support the founding values of the company, economic and social justice, environmental restoration and peace through understanding. (Ben & Jerry) In 1990, eight million Ben & Jerry ice cream cartons carried a “Support Farm Aid” message as part of a grassroots effort to support family farmers. In 1991, the company introduced a bus that used solar panels to power onboard electronics in support of solar energy use.

The national issues concerning gay rights and marriage equality are also included in the company’s dedication to social justice. Ben & Jerry’s official website states this commitment is grounded in our Company’s core values, which include a deep respect for people inside and outside our company and an unshakable belief that all people deserve full and equal civil rights. In 1989, they extended full benefits to unmarried partners of its employees, including same-sex partners. And in 2000, they advocated publicly in Vermont for the creation of civil unions.

It should come as no surprise that Ben & Jerry’s chose to commemorate its home state’s historic moment, “while reinforcing the company’s longstanding commitment to social justice and equality for all people despite race, ethnicity, religion or sexual preference. ” The result was “Hubby Hubby”, a traditional and social media campaign surrounding the symbolic renaming of Ben & Jerry’s popular ice cream flavor “Chubby Hubby” to “Hubby Hubby. ” The campaign was planned to coincide with the bill’s enactment on September 1, 2009 and last through the month of September.

Ben & Jerry’s partnered with Freedom To Marry, an organization that campaigns for the right of same-sex couples to marry in the United States. Together they aimed to raise awareness of the importance of marriage equality and, to show its support, would serve “Hubby Hubby” ice cream in Vermont Scoop Shops throughout the month of September. Goals of the “Hubby Hubby” campaign

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included encouraging other states to follow the trails of Vermont and other states legalizing gay marriage, promote the national conversation about why marriage equality matters, how to take action by driving consumers to freedomtomarry.org. Ben & Jerry’s has a long history of commitment to social justice, including gay rights.

Its partnership with Freedom to Marry, a national leader in the movement for marriage equality, aims to raise awareness of the importance of marriage equality and to encourage other states to follow the blazing trails of Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Maine. Freedom to Marry promotes the national conversation about why marriage equality matters and brings together partner organizations into a larger whole – a shared civil rights campaign.

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