When it comes to aligning yourself with causes, how far is too far? And how far can individual brands of a product portfolio stray from the corporate family consensus?
Ben & Jerry's is testing the boundaries of both these questions with its support of the Occupy Wall Street movement, a movement with the published aim of "fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process."
Such a move is on-brand for Ben & Jerry's to the extent that the company has always had a strong social component to its mission statement and already supports free trade, livable wages and community actions for social, environmental and economic justice. But, even for Ben & Jerry's, is associating and supporting a movement that is both anti-corporate and unpredictable in its future direction a step too far? Is this the sort of thing that an ice cream company should be doing?
And what about Unilever, the very type of large multinational corporation that the movement is protesting about? Can it really disassociate itself completely from what its 100%-owned company decides to do?
Ben & Jerry's has always been given a lot of leeway to do what it wants and it does have an independent board of directors. But is there no limit?