Ben & Jerry’s Orders Franchisees To Remove Yes-Supporting Ads & Promotions

Gold Coast, Australia - November 06, 2014: Customers buy icecream in Ben & Jerry's ice cream store in Movie world Gold coast. In 2013 Ben & Jerrys committed to making their products GMO-free in support of mandatory GMO labeling legislation

International ice cream behemoth Ben & Jerry’s has instructed its Australian franchisees not to display any materials supporting the Indigenous voice to parliament.

The move marks a rare turn for the company, which proudly and openly touts its support for progressive causes and even stopped selling its ice cream in Palestine in order to protest Israeli occupation.

The news broke after Cairns-based franchisee Nick Lorentzen asked Ben & Jerry ANZ’s head of retail for permission to develop in-store deals and promotions to support the Yes campaign, as well as displaying posters and allowing its employees to wear Yes T-shirts.

However, he was told that Ben & Jerry’s had decided to take a neutral position on the issue and he would not be allowed to continue the promotion. Lorentzen told The Australian that he was disappointed in the company and had first invested in the Ben & Jerry’s brand because of its progressive company outlook. He even stepped down from a position on the Ben & Jerry’s national franchise advisory committee in protest.

“Anything less than full support for the Yes campaign risks tarnishing the hard-earned reputation of Ben & Jerry’s as progressive social justice campaigners,” he said.

“I struggle to comprehend how Unilever [Ben & Jerry’s parent company] and Ben & Jerry’s can sit on the fence on this issue,” he said, comparing no stance on the matter to being complicit with the No vote.

“I think it’s lacking in political and moral courage. I think they’ve likely been lent on by Unilever because there’s no other credible explanation.”

While Ben & Jerry’s is a subsidiary of Unilever, the company has an independent board of directors and recently filed a lawsuit against its parent company for selling the ice cream brand to a franchisee in the Israeli-occupied territory of the West Bank. The two have since privately resolved litigation.

Ben & Jerry’s held a conference with its franchisees on the topic last week after some internal lobbying. However, it did not change its position on the topic.

Lorentzen has continued to campaign for the Yes vote and his store is currently offering $5 Yes cones, a discount from their standard price of $6.80.

“The Voice represents hope and opportunity for Indigenous Australians,” he said. “It’s the beginning of a process that allows them to be heard in government and to shape their own future.”

“The Yes campaign unites people on all sides of politics, young and old, including Labor, Liberals, Greens, Independents.

“Yes is about joining together to support our Indigenous brothers & sisters at this historic moment. Sitting on the fence doesn’t cut it.”

When asked why the company was taking a neutral stance over this issue, Ben & Jerry’s ANZ country manager Sean Farrell told The Australian: “B&J’s has long been advocating for First Nations justice in Australia and we will continue listening to, and being an ally for, our First Nations partners”.

Ben & Jerry’s values page says that the brand is “committed to honouring the rights of all people to live with liberty, security, self-esteem, and freedom of expression and protest, and to have the opportunity to provide for their own needs and contribute to society”.

It also says it is “committed to achieving equity, opportunity, and justice for communities across the globe that have been historically marginalised”.

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