Inside Ben & Jerry's:
Kalli Swaik Goes the Extra Mile for the Great Barrier Reef
Kalli wears many hats. As our point person in Australia, she’s responsible for everything from making sure our Aussie friends know who the heck we are (marketing), to making sure stores across Australia are well-stocked with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (delicious).
One of the best things about my job is that no two days are ever the same! As well as the usual mix of teleconference calls and epic Powerpoint presentations, I get to work with incredibly creative and passionate agency partners, drive around in colourful kombis and wreak havoc dressed in a cow suit! Even on the tough days, there is ice cream to get me through.
But it doesn’t stop there. Like so many Ben & Jerry’s employees, Kalli stands up when there’s a cause worth fighting for. That passion has put her center-stage in the effort to protect the Great Barrier Reef, and drawn the ire of anti-environment Queensland politicians.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the greatest natural wonders in the world, but this delicate ecosystem is now under threat from rapid industrialization and dredging which has been fast-tracked by the Queensland government in the past year. The proposals involved the dredging and dumping of millions of tonnes of spoil waste, to support shipping canals and the expansion of a coal port at Abbot Point – all of which would have disastrous consequences for the Reef and the diverse life it supports. As a company that speaks up for social and environmental justice, we couldn’t just sit back and let this happen without doing anything.
Kalli was instrumental in organizing the Fight for the Reef Scoop Tour. On the tour, Ben & Jerry’s teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to give away ice cream and raise awareness of the major threats to the reef.
The Fight for the Reef Scoop Tour, in partnership with WWF Australia, set out to provide Aussies with information around the risks posed to the Great Barrier Reef through proposed rapid industrialization. We travelled the east coast of the country, handing out free scoops of ice cream and, of course, giving the scoop on the issue. Public reaction was wholly positive – it’s clear that the risks faced by the Reef are recognized by the majority of Australians as a very real issue.
Getting the word out hasn’t endeared Ben & Jerry’s to certain elements of Queensland’s government, though. Kalli has heard it all at this point.
We received particularly strong resistance from the Queensland government – a handful of politicians in particular – who accused Ben & Jerry’s of using the campaign to spread ‘lies and deceit’ around the issue. In fact, they proposed a nation-wide boycott of Ben & Jerry’s as a consequence – a move that only served to bolster support for our campaign.
Despite the criticism, Kalli’s mission to fight for the reef seems to be paying off. News of the dredging has drawn criticism from numerous international groups, and the UN may call for the world heritage site to be listed as in danger next year.
While the Fight for the Reef Scoop Tour has ended, the WWF’s Fight for the Reef campaign continues – and with our full support. Until the issue is resolved, we will continue to be outspoken on the topic, and put our brand power and voice behind the cause.