Ben & Jerry's - Brilliant PR Or Corporate Death Wish?
Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc., the Vermont-based manufacturer of ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet, was founded in 1978 in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont, by childhood friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. Ben and Jerry's products are distributed nationwide and in selected foreign countries.
Ben & Jerry's was recently in the news for the troubles they had over their latest controversial ice cream flavor, Schweddy Balls.
Now they are in the thick of the Wall Street controversy. Is all of this political activism helping or hurting their corporation? And is there brilliance or madness behind their latest actions?
This weekend, the board of directors of Ben & Jerry’s published a statement of solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, saying “The issues raised [by the protesters] are of fundamental importance to all of us,” and that they “support this call to action and are honored to join you in this call to take back our nation and democracy.”
With this statement, Ben & Jerry’s became the first large company to publicly step out in favor of the 99%.
The ice cream maker has been socially active since its inception in 1978. Their flavors often bring to mind tie-die t-shirts, The Band and older bearded men smoking weed. The quirkly ice cream manufacturer was bought by Unilever in 2000.
Ben & Jerry's Official Wall Street Movement Statement
In their statement Ben & Jerry's said:
We, the Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors, compelled by our personal convictions and our Company’s mission and values, wish to express our deepest admiration to all of you who have initiated the non-violent Occupy Wall Street Movement and to those around the country who have joined in solidarity. The issues raised are of fundamental importance to all of us.
-The inequity that exists between classes in our country is simply immoral.-We are in an unemployment crisis. Almost 14 million people are unemployed. Nearly 20% of African American men are unemployed. Over 25% of our nation’s youth are unemployed.
-Many workers who have jobs have to work 2 or 3 of them just to scrape by.-Higher education is almost impossible to obtain without going deeply in debt.
-Corporations are permitted to spend unlimited resources to influence elections while stockpiling a trillion dollars rather than hiring people.
We know the media will either ignore you or frame the issue as to who may be getting pepper sprayed rather than addressing the despair and hardships borne by so many, or accurately conveying what this movement is about. All this goes on while corporate profits continue to soar and millionaires whine about paying a bit more in taxes. And we have not even mentioned the environment.
Current Social Mission Filled With Folly?
When Ben & Jerry's was bought by Unilever the giant corporation promised to continue to honor the "current social mission of Ben & Jerry's." They also promised to make sure all social missions undertaken by the ice cream brand would be well-funded and will be merged with Unilever's primary causes. For the full statement and a list of Ben & Jerry’s lobbying efforts visit their website.When Ben & Jerry's introduced Schweddy Balls. there was an outcry by those with strong family values and a call for a boycott of both the flavor and the company. Will this latest social cause be met with praise or criticism? Only time will tell.