NEW YORK – Ben & Jerry’s announced it will take part in an employment program called Unlock Potential, which was created to help at-risk young people find long term career opportunities.

Companies working with Unlock Potential aim to use hiring practices that advance racial equality, recruit the next generation of corporate leaders and disrupt the poverty-to-prison pipeline.

"The importance of second-chance employment efforts cannot be overstated,” said Matthew McCarthy, chief executive officer of Ben & Jerry's. “But hiring individuals when they're released from prison isn't enough – we have to be taking steps to stop them ending up there in the first place. Data show that meaningful employment opportunities are one of the most impactful ways to prevent future incarceration. Unlock Potential will create those first chances."

Unlock Potential was founded through a partnership between the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice and Persevere. It is funded by the Center for Racial Equity. The employment program aims to prevent incarceration, mitigate economic exclusion and help break cycles of poverty. Per Unlock Potential, first-time incarceration can decrease lifetime earnings by more than 30% and such obstacles disproportionately impact BIPOC communities. It also cited studies that found the effect of a criminal record on employment to be 40% more damaging for Black men than white men.

"Unlock Potential is a critical component in the advancement of our racial equity work," said Allie Reid, Ben & Jerry's senior retail racial equity and inclusion manager. "Creating meaningful career opportunities for Black and Brown at-risk youth supports skill development and economic mobility in the communities we serve and exist in."

A 12-month pilot program is expected to be launched in late 2022. A handful of Ben & Jerry's franchised Scoop Shops will be matched with prospective hires, who also will also be connected with local support services through national non-profit Persevere to help ensure their success.

The employment program focuses on the 4.4 million Americans identified as "disconnected youth" –individuals aged 16 to 24 who are neither in education nor employed. Additionally, Unlock Potential further focuses on a subset who have experienced one or more additional risk factors, such as having an incarcerated parent, being involved in sex or human trafficking, or being in the juvenile justice system or the foster care system.

Ben & Jerry’s mission statement emphasizes product quality, a fair financial return and addressing social, racial and environmental injustices.