Ben Cohen

Ben Cohen

Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen gave an interview recently talking about the importance of having a spiritual side of a business. Not a spiritual side of the business people but of the business itself. It’s an interesting read.

“You have two choices when you go into business. You can just run a traditional business that only has a one part bottom line, that is only there to maximise profits for the owners, or you can do one that has a two-part bottom line that makes a bunch of profits and helps to improve the quality of life of the community. We like the second.”

Cohen said the decision to operate with a two-part bottom line was “very controversial.” He said: “It was controversial within our own company, at the board of directors level. We were criticised by the major business schools around the country. They would invite us to come and speak. We would tell them about it and would tell us, you know, we were stupid.”

Still, he said they remained undaunted. “We just continued to do it and continued to demonstrate that we were very profitable. We spent a lot less money on advertising and public relations. Companies traditionally hire and manage advertising agencies and public relations to essentially make up a nice story about the company so that people feel good about the company and buy their products. Instead, we decided to use our money to actually doing good things for the community and people really got to like us a lot.”

“It’s just a spiritual law. It’s the way the world works. It’s written in the Bible. As you give you receive. As you help others, others help you. As your business supports the community, the community supports your business. It’s just the same. I actually think it’s true for nations as well.”

I’ve been writing about companies like Ben & Jerry’s in my new book, Branded to the Bone. This is the first time I’ve heard anyone use this language, though it fits with what I call a “Corporation 4.0” a trend Kevin and Jackie and I started talking about when we worked on Nanovation. It’s a trend we see where more and more companies are adopting what Cohen calls “the double bottom line” and actually out-perform companies with the traditional single bottom line.

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