Politics Magazine

Stand Up For Ben and Jerry’s

Posted on the 29 April 2014 by Thepoliticalidealist @JackDarrant

Ben and Jerry’s, an American brand operated by the Anglo-Dutch owned Unilever, was on the receiving end of a boycott call from an Australian politician this week. (What a globalised society we live in!) The Queensland minister, Andrew Powell, attacked the ice-cream brand after it backed WWF’s campaign to save the Great Barrier Reef.

Environmentalists have succeeded in raising public awareness of the destruction of the Reef, which is due to a lethal combination of dredging, dumping and heavy shipping traffic to Queensland’s ‘megaports’- most of Australia’s imports from Asia come over the Reef. But efforts to highlight this ecological crime were crowned when Ben and Jerry’s Australia last month withdrew its popular Phish Food ice cream and distributed free tubs across the country. An expensive stunt, given that even a 250 ml tub of Ben and Jerry’s will typically cost £2.40 (US$4)! It worked, however, and both federal and regional governments in Australia coming under even more public pressure to preserve a key ecological structure and a lucrative tourist attraction.

Ben and Jerry’s is unusual in that it’s a junk food brand with a social conscience. By all accounts it is a fair employer and it aims to tread on the Earth lightly. Most of us would probably think that’s something to be encouraged: imagine the potential if giants like GlaxoSmithKline or McDonalds discovered ethics and a greater good than maximised profit! OK, they’d probably shut themselves down, but not before winning the trust and affection from the public that Ben and Jerry’s seems to have earned.

However, the WWF campaign has irked politicians who have pushed through the dredging of the nearby seabed in order to expand a local coal port. It’s thought that 70% of the debris could settle on the Reef, potentially smothering large parts of it. However, Australia has a massively influential mining lobby, who have managed to bribe, trick and intimidate enough of Australia’s political class to dampen opposition to port expansion.

So if Mr Powell can explain why it is Ben and Jerry’s which is guilty of “lies and deceit” and not the likes of him, perhaps more people would heed his call to boycott a company for standing up for the environment. In the meantime, I’m going to get some ice cream.

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