Friends with Benefits: An inspiring TED Talk with Greyston Bakery

February 5, 2015

Greyston Bakery - Ben & Jerry's

To most folks, a brownie is…well…a brownie. But to Mike Brady and former criminals like Dion Drew, a brownie is a fresh start, a new beginning. A future. Their inspiring TED Talk shines a spotlight on what social enterprise can do for a community.

Mike Brady is the head honcho at Greyston Bakery—a long-time supplier of the brownies in Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream. The bakery, located in struggling southwest Yonkers, New York, was founded in 1982 by an aeronautical engineer turned Zen Buddhist monk, with the sole purpose of employing the chronically unemployable. People such as Dion Drew, who has climbed from a life of crime to the title of Bakery Lead Operator, are a shining example of what Greyston’s guidance can do.

The brownie in Chocolate Fudge Brownie has allowed 2,000 people to find work that may have otherwise never gotten a job. And those 2,000 people over time have put $15 million back into the struggling economy of southwest Yonkers.

Mike Brady

Through Greyston’s “Open Hiring Model,” anyone who walks through the door—recovering drug addicts, ex-convicts, you name it—are offered a job if one is available. All of the bakery’s profits are reinvested into the community through the nonprofit Greyston Foundation, which offers affordable housing, education, child care and more.

Greyston’s business model is one that fits perfectly with Ben & Jerry’s belief that product quality, profitability and community support go hand in hand. It’s something we like to call Linked Prosperity, and it means making decisions that account for everyone connected to our business, from suppliers and farmers, to employees, franchisees, customers and neighbors.

Despite the appearance of a prosperous nation, we have a problem with poverty that is only getting worse.

Mike Brady

In his moving TED Talk, Brady (with support from Drew) poses the question of how business can be used to solve some of the social problems that are going on right now. And it’s not just in boardrooms and corner offices where change can be initiated. As Brady puts it, each and every one of us, as conscientious consumers, “can make a difference by going out and buying products from companies that we share their values with.”

Brady encourages everyone to “take the time to understand who and what you are buying your products from.” Greyston is just one of the many suppliers we are proud to do business with and share in their sweet success!

If all of the Fortune 500 companies chose just one vendor in their supply chain to institute an open-hiring model, this could have the impact of giving 100,000 people a job who may never otherwise work.

Mike Brady