Ice Cream Social: The Struggle for the Soul of Ben & Jerry’s

Chat with Brad Edmondson about his new book, hosted by Rodney North of Equal Exchange.

Today at 5pm ET, 2pm PT

For more than three decades, Ben & Jerry’s has been committed to an insanely ambitious three-part mission: not just making the world’s best ice cream but also supporting progressive causes and sharing its success with all stakeholders—employees, suppliers, distributors, customers, cows, everybody. Living up to these beliefs is fun when you’re doing it right, and it creates amazingly loyal customers, but it isn’t easy.

This is the first book to tell the full, inside story of the inspiring rise, tragic mistakes, devastating fall, determined recovery, and ongoing renewal of one of the most iconic mission-driven companies in the world. No previous book has focused so intently on the challenges presented by staying true to the mission as the business grew. No other book has explained how the company came to be sold to Unilever, one of the world’s biggest corporations. And none has described the unprecedented contract Ben & Jerry’s negotiated with Unilever to preserve the three-part mission or the complex working relationship that has allowed the company to pursue that mission on a much larger stage.

Brad Edmondson tells the story with a journalist’s eye for details, dramatic moments, and memorable characters. Among the dozens of key figures Edmondson interviewed, his most important source was Jeff Furman, who helped Ben and Jerry write their first business plan in 1978 and has stayed involved ever since, serving as chairman of the board since 2010. It’s a funny, sad, surprising, and ultimately hopeful story.

Brad Edmondson is a writer and consultant who helps people and organizations understand and benefit from social change. He is fascinated by how change happens, and why. A few years ago, while writing about New York’s six-million-acre Adirondack Park, Brad learned that the wilderness preserve at the core of it was once privately owned. The land reverted to state ownership after loggers cut down all the trees and walked away. Now the park is the crown jewel of the Empire State, thanks to one far-sighted law, a vigilant public, and one hundred growing seasons.

Brad was raised in rural south Florida, on a farm that was established in 1923 and is still operated by his family. He attended Deep Springs, a college with an unusual curriculum that trains students for lives of service. By the time Brad got a history degree from Cornell in 1981, he knew he wanted to be a writer and storyteller. Instead of going to graduate school, he took editorial jobs at the Ithaca Times (1981–85), a weekly newspaper that covered peace and social justice issues, and American Demographics magazine (1985–98), a monthly Dow Jones magazine that explained the impact of population change and consumer trends on businesses, organizations, and society. During Brad’s tenure as editor in chief of American Demographics, the magazine was nominated three times for the National Magazine Award for General Excellence. (Berrett-Koehler books)

You can read excerpts here.
Here the author interviews Jeff Furman, chair of the board of Ben & Jerry’s:

Jeff Furman on Activism in Business

Jeff Furman on the Sale Agreement

Jeff Furman on Linked Prosperity