Ben & Jerry’s Tesla Road Trip for Climate Change

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The Tesla arrives in San Diego.

In the late 1980s, Ben & Jerry’s authored a social mission that, among other things, established “a continuing commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the environment.” The company’s latest campaign is a cross-country tour, called Save Our Swirled, in a tricked-out Tesla serving free ice cream and encouraging people to get involved in the fight against climate change.

In 2013, I visited Ben & Jerry’s with a group of food bloggers and met with co-founder Jerry Greenfield and CEO Jostein Solheim. Solheim talked about his reluctance to broadcast the ice cream company’s good works for fear that they may get lost in the din, but the environment is one of several areas that Ben & Jerry’s has always advocated for and set business goals to reduce their carbon footprint. For The Save Our Swirled campaign, the ice cream company is using a completely electric Tesla, with a freezer for a backseat, to show its commitment to clean energy (and feeding people exceptional ice cream).

BJ01Another aspect of Ben & Jerry’s that emerges when talking to employees is the company’s loyalty to its suppliers around the world. The company not only subscribes to fair trade practices, but it also works toward long-term relationships that benefit suppliers as well as their communities. As the effects of climate change are felt in global food production, the ice cream company is seeing them firsthand as its suppliers’ crops are damaged by storms and drought. The company recently put chocolate, nuts and coffee on its list of endangered ingredients as production declines.

BJ02For this campaign, Ben & Jerry’s has partnered with Avaaz, a 5-year-old activist network that was behind the largest worldwide climate change march in history in September 2014. Ben & Jerry’s has a large and engaged following, and the company is hoping to convert that passion into action against climate change. Chris Miller, Ben & Jerry’s social mission activism manager, explained more about the effort:

“We believe a large, diverse, and global movement of citizens willing to take action is necessary if the planet is to avoid the worst impacts from climate change … Our tour is only one part of our overall campaign for climate justice.

This is the first time Ben & Jerry’s has run a global campaign across more than 30 of its international markets. In addition to the tour, we will be engaging fans and citizens around the world through all of the channels our company has, including scoop shops, events, online, digital, and social media platforms among others.”

BJ04The company’s goal by the end of the tour is to have 500,000 fans sign up with Avaaz to help put pressure on world policymakers to impose regulations that will move our world toward using clean energy.

“We are asking people as part of the global campaign to sign Avaaz’s petition calling on policy makers around the world to support a transition to 100 percent clean energy. By signing that petition our fans become members of Avaaz. The 100 Percent Clean petition is just the first of many possible actions and Avaaz will keep citizens around the world engaged and active on climate change throughout 2015 and beyond,” Miller said.

Why now? In many ways, it is a perfect storm of worsening conditions, a need for change and the looming COP21 Climate Change summit in Paris at the end of 2015. The campaign aims to rally Ben & Jerry’s fans and bring more attention to the need for clean energy this year in the hopes that it will make a difference.

“Anyone watching the debate around climate has their eyes on the U.N. Climate summit in Paris. It our hope that citizens around the world will hold policy makers accountable for delivering a framework in Paris that commits the world to stabilizing climate change to well below 2 degrees Celsius. But we also understand that Paris is just one stop on the long road to climate stabilization,” Miller said.

In addition to encouraging fans to take action, Miller explained that the company itself is also fighting climate change in three different ways.

BJ05“First, we’ve recommitted ourselves to a more aggressive set of GHG reduction goals across our entire business. Those goals are based on the level of reductions required to achieve the [2 degrees Celsius] target in both the medium and long term. The second is our support for a progressive policy agenda on climate. The third is our commitment on the advocacy side as part of our Save our Swirled Campaign.”

Save Our Swirled kicked off on April 1 when the Tesla glided into San Diego. Join the team for free ice cream and some inspiration. On April 16, they head to Los Angeles. Check the tour dates to see if they come to a town near you. Track their journey at #saveourswirled.

image and info graphic courtesy of Ben & Jerry’s.

Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at andrea.g.newell@gmail.com and @anewell3p on Twitter.