The rise of multinational corporations involving themselves into the culture war is one of the stranger developments of recent times. When it comes to social justice, there was a time when big business used to stay out of the political realm. But we appear to be living through a bizarre iteration of the cultural revolution and a vast swathe of companies have started coming forward and proudly proclaiming they are supporting the latest hot-button issue.
The recent spate of unrest across the United States – sparked by the killing of George Floyd – has led to the emergence of a newly fired-up, radicalised tranche of people. The Black Lives Matter movement has been extremely vocal in calling for justice. Yet this has emerged alongside the rise of woke capitalism. The multinational clothing and apparel brand, Nike, donated millions to the BLM cause, a cause which, ironically, calls for the end of capitalism. Lego sanctimoniously announced it would be pulling all of its “police-related” products from the shelves and donating money to “re-education” progammes; Ben and Jerry’s proudly proclaimed its desire to “dismantle white supremacy.”
Well, in the world of politics, things move at a swift pace and we find Ben and Jerry’s are at it again. The Vermont based U.S frozen dessert maker, part of the Unilever global foods giant, has taken time out from making over-priced ice cream to publicly shame and lecture Home Secretary Priti Patel over the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers illegally crossing the Channel. As with most issues that dominate the culture war, the battleground was once again social media. Specifically, that most righteous of echo-chambers: Twitter.
In response to Patel’s promise to reduce the number of boats crossing the channel, Ben and Jerry’s responded by saying “the ‘real crisis’ is our lack of humanity for people fleeing war, climate change and torture.” Take that Priti!
Well according to the Dublin Convention, migrants must stay in the first safe country they arrive in. As far as I know, although France has its problems, it’s not ravaged by war.
But Ben and Jerry’s weren’t finished. They went on to proclaim that “stronger borders are not the answer.” People are not illegal according to the makers of Chubby Hubby. Great. I would also like to know what Haagendaas thinks of the Laffer curve!
I can’t believe I need to say this, but I agree – unless you are in prison – no, people are not illegal. But it is the act of crossing and the behaviour of those transporting and exploiting them that makes this illegal.
The cross-channel route has seen an exponential rise in illegal migrants making their way across the 26 miles from Calais to Dover. So far, in the eight months of this year, 4,300 have made the crossing: already double the number that crossed for the whole of 2019. This illegal route is a haven for people smuggling. Criminal gangs operate a multi-million pound operation. The recent debacle in Leicestershire – which uncovered thousands of illegal migrants in textile factories in what has been described as “modern day slavery” conditions has been attributed to this smuggling operation.
So why are companies getting involved? I believe I can offer an explanation.
According to a U.S survey by MarksteinCo & Certus – 70% of consumers wanted to know that the companies they were supporting were doing all they could to address social and political issues. Yet when it comes to the purchase of a product, 46% paid close attention to the companies ethical and social statements. But the clearest explanation lay in the generational divide. According to the survey, the demographic group most likely to say businesses should support political and social issues was the millennials – a whopping 44%.
In the United States, millennials constitute some 30% of the population. They now have more spending power than the baby-boomer generation and they have the collective spending power of $1.4 trillion dollars. Extrapolated worldwide, that is is some serious economic influence.
If I were to take a cynical look at this I would argue that within the realm of marketing and advertising, employers are hiring young twenty somethings straight out of University, where they have been indoctrinated with aspects of a woke ideology. Steeped as it is in the language of critical race theory and cultural Marxism, you could argue that this is another example of the radical Left’s “long march through the institutions.”
Yet if only these purveyors of fine frozen food had bothered to spend some time checking, they would see we had hardly taken an illiberal approach when it comes to this hotly contested issue. Last year we took in the highest number of asylum seekers since 2003. And for the last few years we have resettled and and granted asylum to roughly 16,000 people a year.
It is illegal immigration that empowers the worst aspects of humanity. It leads to lives being forever lost, desperate refugees drowning at sea and undocumented people with no information being forced into modern day slavery. Surely Ben and Jerry’s – or anyone – would deplore that?
Apparently not, but perhaps this isn’t such a mystery after all. This is the company that – just a few years ago – was forced to sign an agreement to pay its own migrant workers the minimum wage and guarantee one day off per week. These migrants must be grateful for the day off, seeing as they have to work a 14-hour shift six days a week and then bed down on straw in a freezing cold Vermont winter. The hypocrisy of a company like this lecturing us on how we treat migrants is deafening.
There was a time when multi-million pound corporations used to just make products and not guilt trip us over the latest social and political issue. Unless these companies clean up their own backyard, most consumers will continue to see this as nothing more than a cynical marketing ploy.
What’s the phrase? “Get woke, go broke?” Until these companies think before they act, It’s hard to argue against it.
Noel Yaxley is a freelance writer and political commentator.