Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

Oh, the Irony. Time for Ben & Jerry's to Clean Up Its Own Swamp?

A big “thank you” this week to the Tucson, Arizona, Organic Consumers Association members who convinced their local co-op, Food Conspiracy, to stop selling Ben & Jerry’s.

Several of our supporters emailed Food Conspiracy’s store manager and its board of directors. Within hours, the co-op posted this message on Facebook:

Thanks to the Co-op owners who let us know their concerns about Ben & Jerry's Ice cream and glyphosate contamination. We have discontinued it from our frozen section.

We are excited about the possibility of an organic line of Ben & Jerry's in the future and are beyond humbled by the collective power of consumer voice speaking up and demanding it.

Food Conspiracy joins other co-ops who are listening to their owner/customers, including Moscow Food Co-Op in Moscow, Idaho; New Pioneer Food Co-Op in Coralville, Iowa; and Ypsilanti Food Co-Op and River Street Bakery in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Now, if we can just work together on the national front to get National Co+op Grocers (NCG) to stop promoting Ben & Jerry’s. (More here on how you can help).

What’s Ben & Jerry’s been up to while consumers have been working hard to get Ben & Jerry’s off store shelves? It’s been furiously spinning the brand’s “good guys” story in the media.

First, it was this public relations stunt. Unilever (Ben & Jerry’s parent company) put up a big stink about “fabricated news, racist, sexist and extremist content” on online platforms like Facebook. The multi-national conglomerate demanded Facebook clean up its “online swamp” or Unilever would pull its advertising.

In the blink of an eye, Fcebook rolled over. After all, nobody wants to incur the wrath of a company with an $8.3-billion advertising budget, right?

We’re all for getting fake news off Facebook. But need we point out the irony of Unilever, which churns out plenty of its own fake claims about Ben & Jerry’s, asking Facebook to clean up its online “swamp?”

How about Ben & Jerry’s cleans up its own offline swamps? As the leading polluter of Vermont’s waterways, Unilever’s got a lot of nerve asking anyone else to clean up its swamps.

Unilever’s Chief Marketing Officer, Keith Weed, had the nerve to tell the media:

As a brand-led business, Unilever needs its consumers to have trust in our brands. We can't do anything to damage that trust—including the choice of channels and platforms we use. So, 2018 is the year when social media must win trust back."

We think the Ben & Jerry’s brand trust ship sailed back when we announced that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is contaminated with glyphosate.

In addition to the Facebook ad media stunt, Ben & Jerry’s recently made a big splash about the brand’s support for the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber’s new Poor People's Campaign, calling for  “a moral, economic, and political revolution and revitalization of American society.”

Ben & Jerry’s pledged a portion of the sales from its new “One Sweet World” brand to Rev. Barber’s campaign.

Again, good on Ben & Jerry’s for wanting to support the Poor People’s Campaign.

But again, the irony. Here’s a brand whose suppliers are on the verge of bankruptcy, talking about justice for the poor. Ben & Jerry’s told the media:

Stand with us, stand with Rev. Barber. With love in our hearts and powered by a commitment to positive change, we can raise our voices together and make sure that every American has a chance to live a better life.

As we’ve written before, the path to “one sweet world” isn’t lined with millions of pounds of pesticides.

If Unilever is genuinely interested in making sure “every American has a chance to live a better life,” the company will start by cleaning up its own act—and what better way to begin than by cleaning up Vermont’s waterways.

With “love in our hearts” let’s keep the pressure on Ben & Jerry’s to start living up to its good guys image by going 100% organic.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

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