Ethical leadership: The scoop on Ben & Jerry’s ice cream


Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is changing the world one scoop at a time.

Jerry Greenfield, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Holdings, is recognized for his reliance on ethics and values, the role his business plays in the greater community and his ice cream sold all over the world. 

Greenfield’s lecture and free ice cream social attracted more than 800 people to the Brown-Lupton University Union Wednesday night.

The lecture was part of the TCU Martin Delta Gamma Lectureship in Values and Ethics hosted by the Gamma Tau Delta Gamma chapter at TCU and TCU Student Development Services.

Greenfield welcomed students with open arms as he shared his Ben & Jerry’s journey.

“I am transitioning to 100 percent hugging,” Greenfield said. 

Students said that Greenfields’ humble personality made his story easy to connect with. 

Raymond Shideler, first-year pre-business major, said he was inspired by someone of such stature being willing to take the time to connect with students. 

“I went in for a hand shake and instead of offering a handshake back, he opened up his arms and asked for a hug, and that was just really welcoming,” Shideler said.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield’s story began in middle school. Greenfield said the two spent a lot of time together and became great friends, but went different ways for college. 

Their college plans did not go as expected though. Greenfield said he was rejected from medical school while Ben dropped out of college. 

The duo came together and tried something new.

“We decided we wanted to be our own bosses, and since we both liked food, we decided to do something with it,” Greenfield said. 

After taking a $5 correspondence ice-cream-making course and finding the funds to open a business, the two started their first Ben & Jerry’s in May 1978 in an abandoned gas station in Vermont.

As their story continued, Greenfield said the two realized that money was not the most significant factor of their business. 

“We didn’t care about growing our business, we just wanted to grow it in line with our values because that’s what is important,” Greenfield said.

Their company expanded as they worked with the community to integrate their concerns into business. 

“The power of our business was in how we conducted our normal day-to-day business actions and we wanted to integrate social and environmental concerns so it would become a part of our normal business,” Greenfield said.

The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation website says it supports social change through grassroots activism and community organizing for social and environmental justice.

Ben & Jerry’s also purchases their brownies for the TCU student favorite Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream from Greyston Bakery.

According to the website, the bakery “bakes for a mission.” The Greyston Bakery donates its profit to various organizations and hires to help individuals move toward the “path of self-sufficiency.”

Greenfield ended his lecture with a message for all in attendance. 

“We are all interconnected, and as we help others, we will be helped in return; for business and people it’s all the same.”

Though his story has been formed through a business platform, students in all areas of interest said they connected to his experience. 

Alexa McBride, Delta Gamma sorority member and sophomore journalism major, said his drive and dedication to ethics was encouraging. 

Jake Potter, senior political science major, said he thinks everyone in politics needs to listen to Greenfield’s story. 

“In politics, being ethical and sticking to your values does not happen,” Potter said. “People should always stick to their values. It is a very pertinent message that our country needs to hear.”

Before the lecture, student leaders from Panhellenic, Interfraternity Council and Delta Gamma as well as Student Development Services faculty and staff ate dinner with Greenfield and his two friends.

Margaux Hebert, Panhellenic president and senior nursing major, attended the dinner and said she was encouraged by the way Greenfield’s leadership through ethics and values can relate to the Panhellenic community. 

“It was phenomenal to get to eat dinner with him mainly because he led a business off of ethics and values and that’s what fraternity and sorority life is all about,” Hebert said.

“It is important for Panhellenic women to attend the event because there is so much that they can learn about leading with a good heart and being true to your morals.”

The last TCU Martin Delta Gamma Lectureship in Values and Ethics was held four years ago. 

The original founders of the program were Paul and Dorothy Martin. The couple had two TCU Delta Gamma granddaughters.

Bunny Shackelford, the Delta Gamma Alumnae Martin Lectureship chairman, said the lectureship was created in 2001 after being awarded $50,000 from TCU and the same amount from Delta Gamma alumnae.

“Our main goal was to have a lecture that can impact students, staff and the Fort Worth community and something that we can give that is permanent so we feel like we are doing something for TCU,” Shackelford said.

Maddy Bilder, senior film, television and digital media major and the Martin Delta Gamma Collegiate Lectureship chair, said they chose Greenfield because his story is relatable and reflects TCU’s values-based perspective.

“His radical business philosophy, emulation of social responsibility in the workplace and example of how to build a business from the ground up while marketing oneself in the right way is very applicable to a lot of college students,” Bilder said.

“Greenfield showed me the importance of making personal relationships, hugging people, thanking them and being gracious and kind in whatever I do.”