It can be difficult for some Americans and people around the globe to grasp the immediate dangers of climate change. Most of us have never seen a polar bear in his natural habitat or watched the artic sea ice melt. Ben & Jerry’s, which is no stranger to social issues, understands this problem better than most. That’s why the brand decided to hit people where it really hurts.
“We are genuinely concerned that if we don’t do something to stop climate change, our way of life in general is in danger,” says Jay Curley, Ben & Jerry’s senior global marketing manager. “And our ice cream in particular is in danger.”
In September, the dessert giant released an article illustrating its “Endangered Pints List”—iconic flavors that could vanish if the planet continues to warm at its current pace. While this might sound a bit flippant at first glance—to worry about ice cream in the grand scheme of our planet’s survival—that’s exactly the point of this campaign: Maybe it’s time to turn the conversation to a relatable dial.
“It’s about understanding that climate change affects our entire way of life,” Curley says. “It’s not just about saving trees and the environment. This is about saving humans’ way of life. And simple things like your morning cup of coffee or your bowl of ice cream at the end of the day, or your glass of wine, those are the things that we’re talking about that are being threatened.”
With the Paris Agreement set to take effect November 4, Curley says Ben & Jerry’s wanted to engage the public and push progress forward. At the bottom of the post, the company allows guests to sign a petition, which is a continuation of their efforts from a year ago, when Ben & Jerry’s contributed around 300,000 signatures to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. “We’re continuing to work and keep the pressure on business and government leaders,” he says.
There was no better platform, Curley says, than ice cream.
“I think often times we will speak out on issues that are not as directly related to our business, and people will criticize us for that,” Curley adds. “But I think, for us, it’s all connected. This really is the bread and butter of what we do. This is our ice cream and our ice cream is made up of a lot of different ingredients that are truly threatened. … I think we consider ourselves experts on ice cream. So we felt this was a way to really reach people.”
Ben & Jerry’s systematically broke it down by endangered ingredients. The first being cocoa, which some scientists predict could decrease in supply by as much as 50 percent by 2050. In Western Africa alone, the site notes, where more than 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is grown, rising temperature and decreased rainfall could threaten production on a massive scale. Given how flat the land is and the reality that chocolate needs humid, warm but not too hot air to thrive, there won’t be anywhere to migrate growth.
With all of that in mind, the following flavors could be erased from the freezer section:
Next, Ben & Jerry’s explored nuts. Nut trees need winter to stimulate spring growth. With warmer temperatures and milder cool seasons, almonds, pecans, walnuts, and pistachios are struggling to maintain their typical growth cycles. Peanuts are also picky, requiring months of consistent warmth and ideal rainfall. Growing havens such as China, India, and the southern U.S. are predicated to see increased drought in the future. If that happens expect these pints to be in danger:
Ben & Jerry’s cites a study that predicts the number of pre-existing regions suitable for growing coffee to shrink anywhere from 60 to 100 percent by 2080. Warmer temperatures, drought, extreme rainfall, more resilient pests, and spreading diseases are all taking their toll on the iconic ingredient, Ben & Jerry’s notes. Imagine a world without these flavors.
“I think, obviously for us, it is that bigger issue that it is our way of life that’s threatened, and the way our society works—broadly—that is threatened,” Curley says. “We can uniquely tell the story through our ice cream. But obviously, you can look out across the rest of society and a see that lot of other things are threatened.”
Curley says this campaign, which has been going on for two years in different forms, isn’t going to go away anytime soon. The brand will continue to find new ways to speak out on this issue and leverage their standing as a company.
“I think we are very outspoken about our values. We very consciously try to use the voice we have as a business to create positive change in the world,” he says. “And for us the climate campaign isn’t a one-off campaign. It’s an on-going thing.”
By Danny Klein
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