Change the World with_Ice Cream?


In October, while in foliage-full Vermont for a wedding, I stopped at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory…as ice-cream fans do! A tour about the creation and reach of ice cream turned into a much greater learning experience when we were also given an insight into the company’s values and issues they care about. It got me thinking, can we change the world with….ice cream?

There are three main goals shared by all campaigns (Baringhorst, 2009, p10):

  1. Gaining public awareness for a particular cause, service, organisation or person
  2. Generating credibility for a person or organisation
  3. Generating cognitive, evaluative and behaviour changes in a target group of people

Through their products, stories, website, partnerships and public engagement activities it appears Ben and Jerry’s has been successful regarding their ‘social’ mission for:

  • A fair and global economy


Image from Unilever

The campaign: Fairtrade

Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers. Ingredients under each flavour specify when made with Fairtrade products, such as bananas in Chunky Monkey.


  • Social justice

The campaigns: Empowerment

Three of their current flavours have clear social justice messages. Can you match the message to the flavour?

Empower MintOne LoveOne Sweet World

a) This coffee & caramel ice cream containing chocolate ampersands will help fund various projects run by Hope not Hate, contributing to more inclusive communities (which is timely with Brexit and the recent election of Trump).

b) This ice cream contains brownies made by the homeless in Yonkers, New York – empowering them to become self-sufficient.

c) This ice cream is music to your ears and tastebuds, as proceeds help fund a youth empowerment programme in Jamaica. Yeah man! Pretty cool.

  • Protecting the environment from effects of climate change

The campaigns: Effects of Climate Change on animals and the environment, Fracking

Very clever ‘SOS’ message on the packaging of their Save Our Swirled ice cream flavour, complete with chocolate cone pieces of chocolate and a petition request about climate change.

Very clever timing has enabled a Ben and Jerry presence at key events, as highlighted in this blog. Can you find the cone? 

The People's March for Climate Justice and Jobs, London, Britain - 29 Nov 2015

Image from Ben & Jerry’s

Other flavours such as Baked Alaska highlight declining numbers of polar bears.  Even more topical, they comment on fracking….which makes you wonder which comes first the ice-cream or the social issue? 


Image from Ben & Jerry’s

It appears that ice cream CAN be a vehicle for social change!

Ben & Jerry defies the odds by:

  • Innovatively using ice cream containers, lids and advertising as a communicative medium to   spread value-based messages to its consumers,
  • Partnering with like-minded actors such as Greenpeace, Fairtrade and Friends of the Earth for wider reach,
  • Capitalizing on key timings such as COP21 within the political arena,
  • Subliminally ensuring that with each bite of their ‘symbolic’ chocolate chunks and Fairtrade products your intrinsic values might be strengthened.

…all which perhaps will lead you to be more likely to take action on important social issues (Crompton, 2015) such as social justice, climate change and fair-trade.

To think they were considering bagels over ice cream! Very. Useful. Tour.

Featured image from Ben & Jerry’s


Baringhorst et al. (2009). Political Campaigning on the Web. Available from  [Accessed 11 December 2016].

Crompton, et al. (2015). Common Cause Communication – A Toolkit for Charities.  Common Cause Foundation, UK. Available from  %5BAccessed 11 December 2016].

This blog is part of my MA in Media, Campaigns and Social Change with the University of Westminster.




8 thoughts on “Change the World with_Ice Cream?

  1. campaignsdiary says:

    Half baked is my favourite tub – yum! 🙂 This was an interesting read, as Ben and Jerry’s are also the only dairy based food company to have spoken out loudly about the suffering of dairy cows! They haven’t been afraid to criticise their own suppliers, in light of no alternative. They worked in collaboration with Compassion in World Farming and World Animal Protection on the ‘Supporting Better Dairy’ campaign to try and persuade the EU Commission to propose an EU Directive for dairy cows. Hopefully one day our ice-cream can come for happy cows ❤ x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kitpowney says:

    Thanks for the blog Kim! It is a really good analysis of the different ways they use their brand and corporate social responsibility to try and tackle multiple issues. I think they also employ campaigners to lead their work, which shows their commitment to using their company to create change. Next time I am in the supermarket I will have to see if I can spot any of the ones above… and of course buy some 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. thinkingforwardjames says:

    I really enjoyed the questions and games you pose to the reader Kim! This interactivity is definitely something I’m going to adopt to make one or two of my blogs more fun and engaging. The topic also aligns with some of the reading I’ve been doing around CSR. What I’ve detracted from your analysis is that Ben and Jerry’s are conscious and accountable “to the core” (if you’ll pardon the pun).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. socialchangecampaigners says:

    As a big fan of the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream i really appreciate the fact that the organization has come to speak against the suffering of diary cows. This is a wonderful analysis of the CSR’s campaigns from institutions that basically point out to issues around what they do.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. turn2facethestrange says:

    Really interesting post, I didn’t know about a lot of the CSR activities so thank you! I think your post bring about a really interesting ideas about the power companies have to affect social change, how much of there activity is centred around this and how much is just a by product. However Ben and Jerrys does appear to be one of the more genuine cases of real corporate social responsibility and set a good example to other manufacturers of how CSR can work as a successful business model. Also, I won’t feel as bad buying a tub now, knowing they are an ethical company!

    Liked by 1 person

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