Ben & Jerry’s Interview Gives Woke Capitalism Its Just Desserts

COMMENTARY Progressivism

Ben & Jerry’s Interview Gives Woke Capitalism Its Just Desserts

Oct 18th, 2021 3 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Ellie Krasne

Manager, Public Programs, Events and Programming

Ellie serves as Manager for Public Programs in Events and Programming at The Heritage Foundation.
Protesters rallied against the ice cream company's decision to stop selling ice cream in settlements on West Bank and East Jerusalem. Lev Radin / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Woke capitalism posits that companies must consider social justice ideas like “climate change” and “diversity, equity, and inclusion” when making business decisions

Businesses do the right thing when they create products and services that meet customers’ needs.

The Axios interview with Cohen and Greenfield illustrates woke capitalism’s hypocrisy and self-interest.

Woke capitalism has gained popularity in the past several years. Unlike traditional free-market capitalism that says companies exist to create shareholder value, woke capitalism posits that companies must consider social justice ideas like “climate change” and “diversity, equity, and inclusion” when making business decisions.

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is no exception. Following heightened tensions between Israel and Hamas, Ben & Jerry’s stopped selling ice cream in Israel’s West Bank, claiming, “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for our product to be present within an internationally recognized illegal occupation.” 

Ben & Jerry’s website does not explain what Israeli policy opposes its values or how ceasing ice cream sales leads to Middle East peace. But as seen in the Axios interview, moral clarity plays a tiny role in woke capitalism’s ideological framework.  

In the interview, Axios’ Alexi McCammond asks, “You guys are big proponents of voting rights, why do you still sell ice cream in Georgia? Texas, abortion bans, why are you still selling there?”

Ben Cohen replies, “I don’t know. I mean, it’s an interesting question. I don’t know what that would accomplish. We are working on those issues of voting rights.”

If Cohen “doesn’t know” how stopping ice cream sales in Georgia advances their questionable idea of “voting rights,” then surely, stopping ice cream sales in Israel’s West Bank does sorry little for the Jews, Palestinians, and Christians who live there.

But based on Cohen’s answer, the decision to stop selling its ice cream in the West Bank wasn’t about the company’s values. It appeased Ben & Jerry’s ice cream board chair, Anuradha Mittal, who, according to an August 2021 article published in the New York Post, was accused of funneling tens of thousands of dollars of profit from the company into funding her pro-Palestinian nonprofit group. 

Unilever PLC, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parent company, didn’t buy Ben & Jerry’s for its woke ideas but for its product to sell in the marketplace. This example illustrates woke capitalism’s preference for aligning business owners with progressive elites over making good business decisions like selling ice cream near a desert.   

Cohen, Jerry Greenfield, and their woke counterparts ought to focus on what they do best: running their business. Famed economist Milton Friedman wrote in his 1970 essay titled “A Friedman Doctrine,” published in The New York Times:

There is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.  

Businesses do the right thing when they create products and services that meet customers’ needs. This increases sales and profits, an outcome that benefits business leaders and their customers.

Woke capitalism, on the other hand, calls on business leaders to use progressive left-wing ideas to drive business decisions. This makes them popular with the ruling elites of mainstream media, Silicon Valley, and woke Wall Street, an outcome driven by self-interest rather than good business.  

America’s free market system creates endless opportunities for individuals to use their talents and interests to create value. But woke chief executive officers and entrepreneurs like Cohen and Greenfield have instead embraced woke capitalism, an ideology that puts the guise of moral righteousness above shareholder value creation.

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream may have appeased the woke left by not selling its ice cream in Israel’s West Bank. But the Axios interview with Cohen and Greenfield illustrates woke capitalism’s hypocrisy and self-interest.

In other words, the Axios interview gives Ben, Jerry, and the woke left their just desserts.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal