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Clean Water Is Good for Cows and Kids | Commentary

Fresh Vermont cream and milk make up more than half of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. So we’ve always worked hard to support safe and sustainable food production, family farms and rural communities. That’s why we’re so proud to support the Environmental Protecton Agency’s new Clean Water Rule. Clean water isn’t just nice, it’s a necessity.

When Ben and Jerry founded our company in 1978, they set upon a journey that ultimately helped define what it means to be a values-led business. We’re guided by our three-part mission that commits us not just to running a financially sustainable company and making the best ice cream in the world, but also to being guided by our company’s progressive values to use our business as an agent of social change.

Since then, the movement has grown and now has a unifying set of principles and criteria on which to evaluate socially responsible businesses — it’s called the “B Corp,” or benefit corporation, movement. Certified B Corps satisfy a rigorous set of standards to achieve certification. True to our pioneering spirit, we became the first-ever wholly-owned subsidiary to gain B Corp Certification.

We believe our voice as a for-profit company can help to address social and environmental challenges such as clean water and climate change. In the case of the new Clean Water Rule, the EPA has issued real common-sense guidance that restores protections to the streams and wetlands that provide clean drinking water for downstream farmers, farmworkers and our families — in total, a third of all Americans.

The Clean Water Act had protected these streams since 1972, but confusing rulings from the Supreme Court in the early 2000s had created legal loopholes and made some of our waterways vulnerable to pollution. After extensive scientific review and public input, the EPA’s new rule restores the Clean Water Act’s protections to headwater streams and wetlands — ensuring polluters can be held accountable should they harm our drinking water supplies.

Ben & Jerry’s has worked on water issues for years, right here in our backyard. In a partnership with the band Phish, our iconic flavor Phish Food spins off royalties that support the cleanup and protection of Lake Champlain. Unfortunately, ice cream alone won’t solve this problem, which is why the new Clean Water Rule is so important to ensure equitable access to clean water for all of our kids and grandkids.

At Ben & Jerry’s, we know a little something about family farming, which is why it’s worth noting that the EPA consulted with farmers when creating this new rule, so existing exemptions for every day farming operations are upheld. This means we can ensure healthful food production without unnecessary burdens for family farmers. That is good news for the Vermont family farmers that produce our milk and cream — and for family farmers and farming operations nationwide.

In fact, anyone who drinks water — from our cows to our kids — should see this rule as good news and stand with us in calling on our nation’s leaders to uphold it.

Jostein Solheim is the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever.

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