Ben & Jerry's CEO: 'Business must be held accountable' in setting specific goals to fight racism

Key Points
  • Ben & Jerry's CEO Matthew McCarthy said "business should be held accountable" as companies set targets to increase diversity within their organizations and beyond.
  • The ice cream maker put out a forceful statement that dates back racism in the U.S. to when the first enslaved men and women arrived to its shores in 1619.
  • The Vermont-based company and its namesake founders have spoken out on many progressive causes, including criminal justice reform and reducing police presence at schools.

In this article

Ben and Jerry's CEO Matthew McCarthy on civil unrest and social justice donations
Ben and Jerry CEO Matthew McCarthy on civil unrest and social justice donations

Ben & Jerry's CEO Matthew McCarthy said corporate leaders must be more courageous and ambitious as they set goals to advance racial equity. And, he said, customers and employees should make sure they follow through.

In an interview on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street," he said "business should be held accountable to setting very specific targets, specifically around dismantling white supremacy in and through our organizations."

That could span from increasing diversity of a company's workforce and top leadership to making donations to influence public policy, he said.

"In businesses, in a lot of ways, you treasure what you measure. You measure what you treasure," he said "If you don't put goals around these things, they simply don't happen."

He said the death of George Floyd, who called out for his late mother as he was pinned beneath the knee of a Minneapolis officer, is "piercing that false veil between our human lives and our business lives."

"My employees demand that we take these stands," he said. "Our fans demand that we take action."

Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry's is one of many well-known brands and companies that have put out statements mourning Floyd and calling for racial equality as protests continue. Its statement, however, was longer and sharply worded. It laid out four major policy proposals, including the creation of a national task force to draft bipartisan legislation to stop race-based violence and check the power of police.

In the statement, the company said Floyd is just the latest name to join a long list of black Americans who have been killed by police or other people because of racism.

"What happened to George Floyd was not the result of a bad apple; it was the predictable consequence of a racist and prejudiced system and culture that has treated Black bodies as the enemy from the beginning," it said. "What happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis is the fruit borne of toxic seeds planted on the shores of our country in Jamestown in 1619, when the first enslaved men and women arrived on this continent."

The Vermont-based ice cream maker has a long history of activism that dates back to its founding in 1978 by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, best friends who embraced tie dye shirts and progressive causes. It's named ice cream flavors, such as Justice ReMix'd, to allude to its social activism and donates a portion of profits to causes, such as criminal justice reform.