With its new flavor, Save Our Swirled, Ben & Jerry’s is urging fans to dig their spoons into climate change activism.
The flavor is a mix of raspberry ice cream, marshmallow and raspberry swirls, and dark and white fudge ice cream cones. But Save Our Swirled is also a flavor with a message: when you dig out a spoonful, the website says, “you can’t help but notice” that those cones appear to be melting. Abbreviated on pint lids as SOS, Save Our Swirled’s message is simple: If it’s melted, it’s ruined, whether it’s our ice cream or our world. The flavor launched earlier this week in the U.S., and will debut in European markets in the summer and move into Asian and Australian markets later in the year.
“The place where we interact with our consumers most is in the freezercase,” Chris Miller, Ben & Jerry’s Social Mission Activism Manager, told ThinkProgress. While the flavor is a central element, it is part of a “larger, global campaign” against climate change, Miller said.
That campaign is centered around the 2015 United Nations climate summit, to be held at the end of this year in Paris, France. Some of the countries where Ben & Jerry’s is most popular — such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, Canada, and others — are countries that are going to be crucial in the talks. Miller said that wide fan base gives the company access to a powerful grassroots voice leading up to the 2015 talks.
“2015 is a really important point in the race to combat climate change,” Miller said. “We have a rapidly closing window…this is our last chance of keeping global warming below 2°.”
Two degrees Celsius is the oft-cited goal for the limit on global warming, though some scientists argue that even that is dangerously high. Ben & Jerry’s hopes that increasing awareness and action in the ramp up to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference will help leaders set legally binding goals that will keep warming below dangerous levels.
To compound the 2°C message, Ben & Jerry’s released a video alongside of the new flavor. Against an oozing backdrop of ice cream that’s 2° too warm, a narrator points out that “A 2° warming of our planet’s climate would have an equally dramatic — though much more significant — impact.”
In addition, on every pint of Save Our Swirled is the URL for www.benjerry.com/climate, where ice cream fans can learn about climate change and sign a petition hosted by Ben & Jerry’s partner, the global civic engagement website Avaaz.org, which calls for international leaders at the climate summit to work towards 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
Avaaz has a goal of delivering 3 million signatures by the summit, and so far has garnered about 2.36 million. However, that petition is only the first step, Miller said.
“It’s not just about signing that one petition. We hope that the petition is a gateway to the larger movement,” he said, adding that once fans sign the petition, they become part of Avaaz’s network for updates regarding this and other campaigns around climate change. Stopping climate change, said Miller, is going to require “everybody doing everything,” so the petition is merely “the first step on a ladder of increasing activism on this issue.”
To help accomplish that increase in activism, a portion of the proceeds of Save Our Swirled will be donated to an organization helping mobilize activism around the Paris talks.
In April, Ben & Jerry’s also launched the Save Our Swirled tour, which involves the company traversing the country in a retrofitted Tesla Model 6 to get people speaking up against climate change. The Tesla has been modified to fit three freezers and hold more than 1,000 scoops of ice cream, which Ben & Jerry’s is scooping for free for anyone involved in climate change activism. The car also includes a “Climate Action Station” where fans can sign the Avaaz petition.
While Ben & Jerry’s has launched social justice campaigns and social justice flavors before — notably, ONE cheesecake brownie, launched in 2008 in a partnership with the ONE campaign against poverty, and the renaming of popular flavors to “Hubby Hubby” and “Apple-y Ever After” to raise awareness for same-sex marriage — this is the company’s first truly global campaign, Miller said.
“What we believe is if we’re going to solve this we need a big, diverse, grassroots movement around the world.”
Climate change is an issue Ben & Jerry’s has recently ramped up its action on. In addition to Save Our Swirled’s externally focused advocacy campaign, Ben & Jerry’s took a look at its own supply chain. As a dairy company, Ben & Jerry’s has a relatively large carbon footprint, something the company says it’s committed to changing. A recent report found that each pint of Ben and Jerry’s contributes about two pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere — the equivalent of a medium car driving two miles. Forty-one percent of the company’s total greenhouse gas footprint can be traced back to the most common ingredient in their pints: dairy.
“When it comes to climate change, the methane from the front and back ends of cows is approximately 21 times more potent than CO2” says the Ben & Jerry’s report on the subject. Miller said that Ben & Jerry’s has implemented a company-wide price on carbon, somewhat like an in-company tax which generates funds for programs to reduce on-farm emissions. In its 2014 Social and Environmental Assessment report, the company pledged to use 100 percent renewables by 2020, in conjunction with its parent company Unilever.
Climate justice is also a central issue of the Save Our Swirled campaign. “We see this as an issue of human rights” Miller said. “It is the most developed countries that caused this. It is the poorest, least developed countries that will pay the price.”
That’s an assessment with which experts agree: climate change is expected to hit poorer countries harder, resulting in changing and extreme weather patterns that endanger both livelihoods and lives. For an ice cream company, it is also an issue that’s close to home: Ben & Jerry’s sources its ingredients from some of these developing countries — vanilla from Madagascar, for instance, and cocoa from Uganda.
“We really strive to build long-term relationships with our sources” said Miller. When it comes to climate change, “we really do see it as an issue of justice…it is about people and it is about equity.” Moving towards Paris, Ben & Jerry’s website references the United Nation’s Green Climate Fund, saying that wealthy nations like the United states have “the responsibility” to help the developing world transition to a clean energy future and to protect it from the worst ravages of the warming climate.
Melted ice cream, put back in the freezer, is never quite the same. A melted world would be even worse — and as Ben & Jerry’s recognizes, it is not necessarily those who left it out who will pay the price.