Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Scoop of Philanthropy

Ahh the Fourth of July. For many of us, Independence Day involves backyard barbecues, trips to the beach, and lots of fireworks. While these things are all very nice, there is one essential ingredient that all Fourth of July celebrations must have: ice cream. I know, it’s not the first thing that comes to mind while contemplating the birth of the United States, but would you believe that Thomas Jefferson actually requested a scoop of ice cream while writing the Declaration of Independence? Ok I made that up, but if it were true it would certainly help me transition into the next part of this blog.
The truth is Independence Day reminds me of ice cream because ice cream reminds me of childhood memories. And I'm not talking about just any ice cream, what I am referring to is “Vermont’s Finest.” Yes, that’s right folks, the one and only: Ben and Jerry’s. Growing up, I spent my summers living in a log cabin very close to the Ben and Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, Vermont. What I didn’t know then was that while I was deciding between Cherry Garcia and Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were perfecting the art of corporate social responsibility.
What does this mean? It means that if you look at the back of most pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, you will see more than a witty description of the flavor; you will see a cause. In 2006 that cause was a national campaign that used free ice cream samples to raise awareness about nuclear weapons spending. The company’s motive behind the American Pie Campaign can be found in the 2006 Social and Environmental Assessment Report. “We looked at the $30 billion in the U.S. budget earmarked for nuclear weapons spending — while millions of American children are living in poverty or without health insurance — and we decided the time was right to speak out on this important issue once again.”

And we’re glad they did. In addition to giving out 11,000 free samples of yummy apple pie ice cream, the company collected 2,450 postcards urging Congress to cut nuclear weapons spending. Ben and Jerry’s also launched an interactive educational website that received 105,000 page views and allowed people to directly contact Congress with their concerns. Oh and did I mention that the American Pie flavor had a pie chart of the federal discretionary budget on the inside of the lid? Genius.
So seeing how it was Fourth of July weekend I decided to do some ‘ice cream market research’ (somebody’s got to do it). When the owner of the local Ben and Jerry’s here in Santa Barbara informed me that American Pie had been discontinued, I took my research to the web. To my surprise I learned that Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s, had been a supporter of NAPF and the abolition of nuclear weapons. This was fantastic.
As a strong believer in Ben and Jerry’s and using ice cream as a tool to promote awareness, I am currently writing the company not to resurrect a flavor, but to resurrect a cause. Our government continues to make nuclear weapons programs a financial priority. If we ever want to reach the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, we need to call more attention to the massive nuclear weapons budget. And let’s face it, nothing calls more attention than cold creamy goodness.

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