Unilever faced a protest outside its headquarters this morning as the company released its full year results. An advertising van pulled up outside the building with a poster bearing a warning: “Ice cream and politics don’t mix”. The protest was organised by the Campaign for Common Sense, which has urged the Unilever brand Ben and Jerry’s to stop virtue signalling over geopolitics and stick to what it does best – making ice cream.
It comes after criticism by some shareholders that Ben and Jerry’s political posturing could jeopardise the brand’s commercial success and even impact on share prices.
Ben and Jerry’s has this month criticised US military policy on the Ukraine-Russia crisis:
You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war. ⁰⁰We call on President Biden to de-escalate tensions and work for peace rather than prepare for war. ⁰⁰Sending thousands more US troops to Europe in response to Russia’s threats against Ukraine only fans the flame of war.— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) February 4, 2022
In July 2021, Ben and Jerry’s also withdrew from its commercial partnership with its Israeli licensee because it was “inconsistent with their values” to sell ice cream in the West Bank.
The Campaign for Common Sense argues:
“This isn’t about one specific policy or another, it’s about the very idea a company should prioritise virtue signalling over its real business. We’re calling for Unilever to stop engaging in pointless public posturing and to cancel all bad commercial decisions they’ve made based on fringe political opinions.
They should stick to what they do best – making ice cream – and leave foreign policy to the experts. Unilever needs to focus on serving its customers and stakeholders by bringing Ben and Jerry’s under control to stop the damage it is doing to the business. It’s common sense: nobody expects their ice cream to have a foreign policy.
ESG policy should not be highjacked by fringe activists with geopolitical axes to grind. Higher ESG scores do not correspond with high performance, as shown by Credit Suisse research, and inclusion of ever wilder causes in ESG policy can only worsen performance.”
Guido is a Marmite fan and is reluctant to boycott the spread just because somebody in their firm’s social media marketing department thinks going woke will boost sales. As the top City fund manager Terry Smith told Unilever, “a company which feels it has to define the purpose of Hellmann’s mayonnaise has in our view clearly lost the plot”. Unilever’s share price is down 20% from their highs since they went woke a couple of years ago. Proving once again: go woke, go broke.