Benojo chats: Rob Michalak, Ben & Jerry's Global Director of Social Mission

Rob Michalak is Ben & Jerry’s global director of social mission. Social mission being one of three missions (the other two being product and economic) that the company uses to guide their decision-making.

ben and jerrys social mission

Michalak was in Sydney last week to speak at the Corporate Affairs Summit. We caught up with him after his insightful and insightful address, and asked him to tell us more about some of the tweets shared during his talk.

Here’s what we learnt…

Rob Michalak tweet 1

"Arguably, governments around the world are paralysed with partisan politics.  It seems as if they cannot get anything done. Business is much more decisive. Business combines decisions that incorporate powerful resources: people, money, raw materials, innovation.

If we make business choices that marshal these resources towards ends that create positive social, economic and environmental change, we are on our way to societal change, potentially at many levels.

If we make decisions that include more people in the global economy we will be creating a world in which more people can participate in that economy and that benefits us all.

We’ve seen how greedy capitalism can tank the global economy in 2008 and 2009. As a result of a profit driven economy that created no underpinning value, the global economy went over the cliff. Counter to that ethos, if we make decisions that create value all along the value chain whereby we foster a sense of linked prosperity in that chain, including those on the economic margins, we are building an economy that is much stronger and more sustainable over time."

Rob Michalak tweet 2

"We believe in values-based decision making and standing for something. Say what you mean and mean what you say. However, when you take a stand on something, there will be people who disagree with you and it may cost you business.

On the other hand, those that stand with you are more intensely loyal. That’s what we’ve found to be true over time. People who understand your values and know that you are true to them, stand by you through thick and thin."

Rob Michalak tweet 3

"Our current priorities are climate justice and social equity.  Many people in the global south are suffering from the consequences of climate change, which is primarily a result of actions taken in the global north.

Ben & Jerry’s supply chains reside all over the world but many ingredients that we source come from the global south such as sugar, vanilla, cocoa, banana and coffee.  Climate adaptation is becoming a bigger issue for people in those supply chains, which speaks to actualising a sense of justice through our business decisions, supporting those growers in climate adaptation initiatives, among other development issues.

We must drive towards a global agreement on climate change this year at the COP21 in Paris. We must also lean into our supply chains and help those producers adapt to climate change so that we are able to have the cocoa, vanilla and coffee that we will all want in the decades ahead."

And to end…

"There is a growing recognition by companies that they need to be engaged in solutions to social and environmental issues and not just economic issues.  With that understanding comes the next level of engagement, advocacy and activism.

In many ways, companies have been involved in different levels of activism, whether through trade groups or lobbying.  But companies are being more connected to their customers, matching common values and public interests and engaging at levels that address public issues.

We are also seeing the growth of movements such as the B Corp movement (certified Benefit Corporations) that acknowledge the importance of having a social purpose as part of the business model.  Many will argue that having a more holistic business model that includes a social purpose, is a more sustainable model.  As the B Corp community engages with its member companies, it ignites a new sense of purpose to be more engaged publicly on social and environmental issues."

To learn more about why we love Ben and Jerry's social mission read here.

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