As Ben & Jerry’s pauses its lawsuit against parent company Unilever to engage in mediation about its disagreement over selling the ice cream maker’s operations in Israel, the British conglomerate’s CEO — who himself is a top ESG advocate — advised the Vermont-based creamery to limit its political advocacy to issues that don’t cause economic and legal problems.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday:
“There is plenty for Ben & Jerry’s to get their teeth into on their social justice mission without straying into geopolitics,” Unilever CEO Alan Jope (pictured above) said Tuesday. “I’m sure the brand will continue to enjoy a very bright future doing just that.”
Brands should focus on tackling issues where they have a long-term record, Mr. Jope said. For Ben & Jerry’s, those issues are the climate emergency and social justice, he said.
Mr. Jope also said Unilever wanted to keep the brand despite their recent differences. “The long-term future of Ben & Jerry’s is squarely part of Unilever,” he said.
Despite the litigation from its subsidiary against Unilever, Jope said on Tuesday that he still endorsed the structure that keeps an independent board in charge of Ben & Jerry’s political activism.
“It’s a good healthy tension to have a group there who looks after the social mission,” he said.
Yet, as the Journal reported, “in recent years Mr. Jope has voiced disapproval of some of the ice cream brand’s more political pronouncements. Those include a 2018 anti-Trump campaign featuring a flavor called Pecan Resist and a tweet saying President Biden was fanning the flames of war by sending troops to Europe in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
Besides Ben & Jerry’s politics, Jope has not been asked about, nor has he addressed, the ice cream company’s ethical problems with its board of directors.
As NLPC uncovered last year, Anuradha Mittal, chairwoman of Ben & Jerry’s board, appeared to have violated laws governing self-dealing by acting as a trustee of the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation while approving donations to her personal nonprofit where she is executive director taking a full-time salary.
Also, the president of Ben & Jerry’s charitable foundation, Jeff Furman, steered more than $100,000 of its funds to his own nonprofit organization.