Ice cream king joins Greenpeace

A hippie magnate could rescue the ailing pressure group, writes Geoffrey Lean
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The Independent Online
BEN COHEN, the co-founder of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, has found a cool new job - helping to run, and rescue, Greenpeace.

Staff at the US arm of the pressure group, which has been hit by swingeing cuts over the past two years, are to meet the hippie magnate, who was appointed as one of its directors on Wednesday.

And, as reported in today's Sunday Review, he and his partner, Jerry Greenfield, are sketching out ideas for launching a new flavour christened Rainbow Warrior after Greenpeace's famous flagship. Proceeds are to go to the group.

The association with the success of Ben and Jerry's - which produces two-fifths of the US's premium ice cream - is intended to provide a shot in the arm for Greenpeace's ailing US organisation. The group avoids talking about its difficulties, but it is only now beginning to emerge from a crisis that nearly destroyed what was once Greenpeace's biggest national organisation. It has recently had to sack some 250 people, mainly fund- raisers.

Ben and Jerry's - whose annual turnover of more than pounds 100m is roughly equivalent to Greenpeace's worldwide income - has made a speciality of marketing socially responsible business and this is how Mr Cohen first met the environmentalists.

Heavily involved in Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities - a group of 400 businessmen who press the US government to spend less on defence and more on poor children - he visited Greenpeace to learn about their campaigning methods.

He was struck by the organisation's campaign against chlorine, which is used to bleach the more than 100m cartons of Ben and Jerry's ice cream that are sold each year. They are now trying to switch to unbleached paper and will start testing a new container this year.

Mr Cohen says he admires Greenpeace's marketing through "direct action, confronting the powers that be." He adds: "I feel that they represent people like me. I can't find anybody in government or the corporations who speaks for me like they do." But he says that so far he has not given the group any "significant" amounts of money.

He believes that the secret for success both in business and for pressure groups is to focus on a few priorities. "Just as we focus on Cherry Garcia, they focus on nuclear power."

He would like to see them paying particular attention to renewable sources of energy and looks forward to the day when he will be able to produce solar-powered ice cream. Ben and Jerry's already have a solar ice-cream cart, which carries the slogan "chilled by the sun".