Ever since Ben and Jerry first started churning up ice cream in an abandoned gas station way back in 1978, our goal has been to make the best possible ice cream in the best possible way. And a big part of that is making sure that everyone who has a hand in making our flavors gets their fair share of the profits.
For starters, all our flavors are Fairtrade certified, which means that the smallholder farmers who produce the sugar, cocoa, vanilla, coffee, and bananas we use receive a Fairtrade Premium on top of the regular purchase price for their crop. We take it a step further with our Living Income Accelerator, a unique fund we created in partnership with Fairtrade. Together, we’re advancing work that promotes a living income and dignified lives for farmers producing the ingredients that make our ice cream flavors so delicious.
The Need For A Living Income
What is a living income, anyway? A living income is enough to afford a decent standard of living for all household members. That means a nutritious diet, clean water, decent housing, education, health care and other essential needs, plus a little extra for emergencies and savings once farm costs are covered.
Sadly, global inequity has caught many farmers in a destructive cycle that keeps them trapped in extreme poverty: They can’t afford to invest in more progressive farming methods or adapt to climate change, which in turn severely limits their income and puts an enormous strain on their communities. Global commodities markets are notoriously volatile, so farmers never know from year to year how much income they’ll make from their crops. Addressing poverty would go a long way toward ensuring farmers can earn a stable income, meaning their communities thrive, they can afford to build climate resilience into their farming operations, they can end labor infractions, and build a more equitable society.
With the Living Income Accelerator, we’re collaborating with our partners at Fairtrade to work toward closing the income gap and ensuring that our ingredient producers can lead full, dignified lives. The living income premium pays farmers an additional amount on top of the Fairtrade Premium — money that they can use to invest in their farming operations and communities based on their particular local needs. Plus, it allows us to build relationships with farming co-ops and get to know the farmers and the specific challenges they face.
At Ben & Jerry’s, we use what we call a linked prosperity business model, which means that as we prosper from making delicious ice cream flavors, we work hard to ensure that all the people who have a hand in making our flavors — from the ingredient farmers to the manufacturing employees and beyond — also prosper. The Living Income Accelerator is one part of our journey toward that goal. Working to ensure that farmers aren’t trapped in a cycle of extreme poverty is important to us as a values-led company and supports our linked prosperity mission. We also use our global platform to advocate for industry-wide change, because farmers everywhere deserve a reliable income that allows them to thrive.
Starting Our Journey With Cocoa Farmers
When we first started exploring living incomes with Fairtrade, we decided to focus first on cocoa farmers and expand to other ingredients over time. Why cocoa? Other than the fact that we have a special place in our hearts for chocolate ice cream, cocoa farmers are in a particularly vulnerable position.
Fluctuations in the global cocoa market, changing rainfall patterns, and increasing deforestation all have an outsized impact on cocoa production. For example, almost 40% of the world’s cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast, where farmers earn an an average of less than $1 per day, less than half of what’s actually needed to cover living expenses. Production costs are high and yields can be low, which often leads to forced and child labor, gender inequity, and low interest in farming from the younger generations.
The Living Income Accelerator has grown and evolved over the years, and in 2020 we became the first ice cream company to pay a living income price for the cocoa used in our ice cream. In 2020 we also used the Living Income Accelerator to protect the environment and professionalize farmers’ businesses. Here’s how:
Protecting The Environment
- We planted over 40,000 shade trees to protect the growth of cocoa trees in changing climatic conditions.
- We mapped over 4,000 farms, ensuring that none were operating within protected forested areas.
- We helped over 600 households buy energy efficient cookstoves to reduce harmful carbon emissions.
Professionalizing Farmers’ Businesses
- We trained over 4,500 farmers to improve the performance and productivity of their farms.
- We laid the foundation for income diversification activities, helping to improve farmer incomes beyond growing cocoa.
- We helped develop 783 individual farm business plans.
- We kicked off a child labor monitoring and remediation program to support children on the journey back to school.
Goodness In Every Scoop
Next time you dig into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked or Chocolate Fudge Brownie, you’ll know that it does more than satisfy your sweet tooth — it’s working toward a future where justice is our first ingredient and farmers and their communities can thrive. We think that’s pretty sweet!
Learn more about our commitment to Fairtrade and equitable working conditions for our ingredient producers.