Is Unilever in favor of the fight against the corrosive power of banks and multinational corporations? ~ Brand Mix

Monday, October 17, 2011

Is Unilever in favor of the fight against the corrosive power of banks and multinational corporations?

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?


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MS said...

I dunno. Occupy Wall Street is specifically protesting a financial culture that's disenfranchising the American middle and working class, so it's not immediately disingenuous for Ben & Jerry's to support that ideal just because they're owned by a multi-national. If what you're pressure-testing is whether it's appropriate for global brands to become more broadly and overtly politicized, I'd say that they're already political entities by nature of their social and financial impact in local communities and global markets. The question is whether they use their corporate influence for progressive or regressive social initiatives--but I think we're watching the rise of progressive corporate politics across global brands. Example: Levi's takes out a full page ad in the NY Times supporting same-sex marriage. That's a massive display of social leadership and all to the good, no?

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