Ben & Jerry's opens 'social' shop

Ice cream manufacturer Ben and Jerry's is opening its first UK ice cream parlour franchise to be owned and run by a charity.

The Unilever-owned brand, which is renowned for quirky flavours such as Phish Food and Karamel Sutra, has awarded a franchise to social enterprise company and registered charity the Furniture Resource Centre Group, which will run the store for the benefit of the local community.

The shop, which is based in Chester, will provide a training programme for local socially excluded young people. The shop will be run by a staff team from the local area and young people from the programme.

All profits generated will be used by the Furniture Resource Centre's programme to provide training and support for socially excluded groups.

Ben and Jerry's has been running similar 'PartnerShop' schemes for 16 years in the US, as part of its 'caring capitalism' doctrine. The tie-up with the Furniture Resource Centre is the first outside the US.

"We first came across the Ben & Jerry's PartnerShop concept last year on a fact-finding mission on social enterprise to San Francisco and were impressed with the results," said Furniture Resource Centre Group chief executive, Liam Black. "Both companies have a great work ethic and strongly believe in the values needed to put social businesses to great effect."

More non-profit franchises are planned for the UK over the next three years.

Ben and Jerry's has always operated on the premise that businesses have a responsibility to give back to their communities. This social mission has included donating 7.5 per cent of pre-tax profits to charity and sourcing raw ingredients from family farms and sustainable agriculture.

The extension of the PartnerShop scheme to the UK comes despite fears from some activists that Ben and Jerry's' $326m (£203m) sell-out to consumer products giant Unilever in 2000 would lead to a reduction in the ice cream company's socially conscious management ethos.

See News in Focus, p12.

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