Marriage equality is one of the significant civil rights issues of our time. Ben & Jerry’s is privileged as a company to have a platform and resources with which we can combat bigotry and discrimination as well as inspire others to engage. We believe all companies have obligations beyond just making money and the power to inspire change in the world. That includes our friends at Microsoft.
Microsoft’s UK Chief Marketing Officer, Phillipa Snare was part of a panel conference at an Advertising Week Europe event in London this past Tuesday.
During that discussion she wondered aloud about some of the decisions we’ve made as a company, specifically our longstanding commitment to the pursuit of Marriage Equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees, customers, and fellow-citizens in the UK, in the US, and around the world.
She said: “Do you think ice-cream has got an interesting voice in gay marriage? I find that a bit of a struggle. I don’t understand why Ben & Jerry's have even gone there.”
We’ve gone there because we're motivated to use our success to help those around us and inspire others to do the same. Ben & Jerry’s has a long history of commitment to issues of social justice, including gay rights. 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.
Back in 1989, we were the first major employer in Vermont to offer health insurance to domestic partners of employees, including same sex couples. We actively campaigned for civil union legislation and Marriage Equality in our home state of Vermont, and took up the cause nationally and globally.
We’re of the opinion that all companies ought to stand for more than profit. We have sought to lead by example on this issue for decades. Increasingly, others are leading too. We know that Microsoft has been supportive on this side of the Atlantic having joined with Ben & Jerry’s and more than 340 other employers in petitioning the Supreme Court to strike down marriage bans across the United States (JAMES OBERGEFELL, et al., Petitioners, —v.— RICHARD HODGES, Director, Ohio Department of Health, et al., Respondents.)
Over the last many years, we have joined with millions of individuals, businesses, activist organizations, religious groups, and civil servants to help realize change. In the UK, loving couples of all kinds are now free to marry. In the span of a decade and a half, we’ve gone from a very bleak picture in the United States to 37 states that allow same sex marriage. The Supreme Court takes up the issue again this April and we may be on the cusp of marriage equality for all in the United States. Finally.
There was one last point that we’d also like to address where the Microsoft CMO said: “I wouldn’t make a different decision about my ice-cream based on their [Ben & Jerry's] beliefs.”
If you’re a corporate leader who looks out on the world and only concerns yourself with making money, then supporting causes that your customers care about would still make sense. Our customers do care about what they buy and what we stand for.
We’ve found that giving voice to our beliefs and those of our employees, friends, neighbors, and customers is the best thing we’ve ever done. By providing our fans and customers with tools, resources, and information, we’ve helped them become a powerfully diverse group of voters, activists, and engaged citizens.
We continue to invite all businesses to explore the ways in which they do business, how their fans and customers collaborate, and the ways in which together they are working to make the world a better place.
We hope that Microsoft UK and all businesses will join us in standing up for Marriage Equality as so many others have. Loving couples, of all kinds, should be free to marry! Together we will make it so.