Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russia Gets a Triple Dip of `Caring Capitalism'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russia Gets a Triple Dip of `Caring Capitalism'

Article excerpt

JUST off Lenin Street, the main drag in this quiet Russian city, it's possible to find an appetizing slice - really more a scoop - of Americana.

Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream factory and store, a joint venture, occupies part of a building previously known as the Young Pioneer Palace, named for former leader Yuri Andropov.

The Petrozavodsk shop boasts the same bright decor as US stores and the sweet smell of fresh-made cones permeates the air. Dance music also thumps from a "boom box." The only thing the Petro-zavodsk Ben & Jerry's doesn't have are some of the funkier flavors. Yet, despite the lack of varieties - such as Cherry Garcia, honoring Jerry Garcia of the Greatful Dead - the Russian operation is "Truckin'."

"We didn't expect that success would come so fast," says Sergei Lukin, one of the joint-venture partners. "In spite of inflation, we still have many people who come here and stand in line."

Ben & Jerry's representatives are also pleased with the performance of the Russian venture, comprising three outlets in the Karelian Autonomous Republic bordering Finland. According to David Morris, director of Ben & Jerry's Petrozavodsk operation, "there's a two-part bottom line.... One is to stay profitable. The other isn't necessarily measured in dollars and cents, but depends on how much good you can do."

Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's has always been partly driven by what employees call "the social mission." Since they began making ice cream in 1978, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have created a corporate culture termed "Caring Capitalism." Philanthropic activities are guided by the Ben & Jerry's Foundation, which distributes 7.5 percent of profits.

Ben & Jerry's Petrozavodsk presence "fits nicely into the social mission part" of company strategy, says Jeff Furman, a board member. The main idea behind the Russian venture was to promote world peace and understanding, Mr. Furman says.

To that end, employee exchanges between the Russian outlets and US stores are planned for this summer. Ben & Jerry's also hopes to set up a foundation in Russia soon. The company plans to donate to charity 10 percent of the 7 million rubles ($10,600) in profit that the Russian operation earned in the first year, Mr. …

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