Ben and Jerry’s UK migrants, Ben & Jerry’s rattles the government.
Surreal, yes, but the subject of the argument is deadly serious: it’s about migrants who crowd into small boats to cross the English Channel from France. After Home Secretary Priti Patel on Monday pledged to make these dangerous crossings “unviable,” Ben & Jerry’s U.K. took to Twitter to take her to task.
“Hey @PritiPatel we think the real crisis is our lack of humanity for people fleeing war, climate change and torture,” a thread from the ice cream brand began. Ben & Jerry’s went on to note that “the U.K. hasn’t resettled any refugees since March, but wars and violence continue.”
It seems Ben & Jerry’s tweets rattled the government, because someone in Patel’s department, the Home Office, briefed the BBC that the firm’s ice cream was “overpriced junk food.” James Cleverly, a lawmaker from Patel’s Conservative Party, tweeted: “Can I have a large scoop of statistically inaccurate virtue signaling with my grossly overpriced ice cream please.”
Andrew Neil, a prominent conservative media personality, accused the brand of “posing as some kind of hippy ice cream play.”
“You’re now wholly owned by a massive global conglomerate called Unilever. Perhaps if it paid the taxes [the U.K. tax authority] thinks you should pay we could afford to accommodate many more asylum seekers,” Neil tweeted.
Indeed, Unilever is currently battling Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs over a $166 million tax bill. But it’s not like Ben & Jerry’s has no form in this regard.
Ben & Jerry’s is the OG corporate activist. It may have recently run high-profile campaigns in support of Black Lives Matter—winning plaudits for an unequivocal statement saying “the murder of George Floyd was the result of inhumane police brutality that is perpetuated by a culture of white supremacy”—and the release of prisoners to reduce their exposure to COVID 19, but it’s been campaigning for progressive causes for decades.
That’s part of the Ben & Jerry’s brand, no matter who the parent company is (and Unilever is no slouch on the CSR front itself)—you may like it or disapprove, but “posing” doesn’t ring true in relation to a firm that’s always been this way. And whatever your views on the issues at hand might be, there’s no denying that Ben & Jerry’s activism still has the capacity to rattle the establishment.
More news below. And remember that Fortune is collecting nominations (until August 24) for our annual Most Powerful Women lists, which publish in our November issue.