What is Fairtrade and why is it important to Ben & Jerry’s?
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 flavours gets their fair share of the profits.
For starters, all our flavours 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 flavours so delicious.
Fairtrade Certified Ingredients
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 flavours, we work hard to ensure that all the people who have a hand in making our flavours — from the ingredient farmers to the manufacturing employees and beyond — also prosper.
Ben & Jerry’s sources five Fairtrade Certified Ingredients that go into our pints, these include; Sugar, Cocoa, Vanilla, Coffee and Bananas. These ingredients are used across the whole Canadian range, including some fan favourites like Half Baked and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, but also in some of our newer pints like Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz and S’More please!
Take Sugar as an example:
We source our Fairtrade sugar from a variety of small-scale farmers, including those in the Belize Sugar Farmers’ Association. Belize has become a global role model in sugar production. Up to 85% of the population in some rural parts of the country depends on the sugar industry, which is why investments utilizing social premiums are so important. For example, newly implemented alternative pest-management practices helped save the Association's sugar crop, while drastically reducing the application of harmful pesticides. In 2020, Fairtrade premiums were split into different areas including, 55% going to farmer members, 38% being invested in producer organizations, 5% being invested into community services, and 2% going to other investments.
In 2020, Ben & Jerry’s generated a Global Fairtrade premium of $6.7 million CAD, with Canada contributing 2.63% of this global amount. Since 2019, Ben & Jerry’s Canada, has increased its premium generation by 69%, with Cocoa and Sugar making up the bulk of the increase with all the new chunky euphoric flavours we launched! The team is working hard to increase this amount; however, we need to turn and thank all of you super fans for supporting Ben & Jerry’s, and in turn the small producers and famers that help make Ben & Jerry’s pints what they are today.
What is 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 labour 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.
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.
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 labour monitoring and remediation program to support children on the journey back to school.
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.