Benny & Jerry’s, the ice cream company renowned for its socially responsible actions, has been spending millions of dollars lining the pockets of anti-globalisation protest groups, it emerged yesterday [Monday].
When Ben & Jerry’s was taken over by one of the world’s largest multinationals last year, Anglo-Dutch giant Unilever found that it had to offer something extra to secure the US$326m acquisition. It ended up donating extra money for various progressive initiatives; US$5m would be distributed via the company’s charitable arm, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, while another US$5m was earmarked for a venture capital fund for ethical start-ups. Unilever also pledged to donate a minimum of US$1.1m every year, to grants for social change groups.
A Financial Times investigation revealed however that the money was actually being ploughed into counter-capitalist activist organisations such as the Global Exchange. Furthermore, the newspaper alleged on Monday morning that Unilever executives knew when they agreed to set aside cash for the Foundation that the money would fund anti-globalisation groups.
Notably, the foundation has given US$100,000 to the Ruckus Society, a group that trains activists in tree-sits, banner hanging and street protesting and which was largely responsible for organising the demonstration that closed down the 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Seattle.
Ruckus director, John Sellers, commented to the Financial Times in September: “It is great that it is Unilever money. There is no better way to launder multinational largesse than giving it to the movement that is confronting it.”