The well-known proverb, ‘Great talkers are little doers,’ seems particularly relevant in light of the recent controversy involving ice cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry’s.
On Independence Day, the company sparked debate by tweeting, “This 4th of July, it’s high time we recognize that the US exists on stolen Indigenous land and commit to returning it.”
Company’s tweet urges return of Mount Rushmore to Lakota
The tweet, which also contained a link to their website, urged visitors to sign a petition advocating for the “return” of Mount Rushmore to the Lakota people.
The website stated, “The faces on Mount Rushmore are the faces of men who actively worked to destroy Indigenous cultures and ways of life.”
Company’s ‘undercooked’ marketing campaign
This campaign, seemingly a brainchild of the company’s young marketing team, was possibly intended to grab summer headlines and incite a wave of guilt among its consumers, persuading them to buy more of its products, like the popular Chunky Monkey flavor.
However, the initiative seems to be slightly undercooked.
Ben & Jerry’s Headquarters on Abenaki Land: Piques local chief’s interest
The corporate office of Ben & Jerry’s in South Burlington, Vermont, sits on land that historically belonged to the Abenaki tribe.
The local chief, intrigued by the company’s stance, is interested in understanding the depth of their commitment.
Chief Stevens anticipates potential benefits from Ben & Jerry’s
As the New York Post reported, Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation expressed his anticipation for any correspondence that could result in substantial benefits for the Indigenous people.
Stevens stated that if Ben & Jerry’s is “sincere,” they should reach out to him.
Controversy sparks backlash on Twitter, company’s financials take a hit
Twitter was alight with users criticizing the company for what they saw as glaring hypocrisy, calling for the return of Lakota land while themselves operating on disputed Indigenous territory.
The controversy seems to have had a tangible impact on the company’s financials.
Vermont Governor criticizes Ben & Jerry’s stance
The backlash against Ben & Jerry’s has come not only from Twitter users and tribal leaders but also from political leaders.
Vermont Governor Phil Scott criticized the company’s stance: “If you truly want to make a difference, actions speak louder than tweets.”
The governor added, “Businesses in Vermont should be striving to make real, tangible contributions to social causes instead of making performative statements that end up causing more harm than good.”
This criticism further emphasizes that companies must take clear, concrete steps toward addressing social injustices instead of relying on social media rhetoric.
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Parent Unilever records $2 billion market capitalization decline
Post the Independence Day communication, Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, reportedly experienced a nearly $2 billion decline in market capitalization, a scenario reminiscent of the ‘go woke, go broke’ phenomenon previously experienced by brands like Bud Light and Target.
What remains to be seen is whether Ben & Jerry’s will respond to these criticisms and initiate discussions about returning their land to its “rightful owners.” That, indeed, would be a move that might garner petition signatures of its own.