Person

Ben Cohen

Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. (link) by Dismas is licensed CC BY-SA 3.0 (link)
Nationality:

American

Occupation:

Co-Founder, Ben & Jerry’s

Founder, Ben’s Best Blnz (B3)

Contact InfluenceWatch with suggested edits or tips for additional profiles.

Ben Cohen is the co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and a noted political activist who uses his company’s brand and resources to promote far-left politics. He supported U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 campaigns for president, serving as a national co-chair for the 2020 campaign. He has also been arrested multiple times during protests, most recently in 2023 while protesting the arrest of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.

Cohen also helped found the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, which directs funding to left-of-center advocacy groups and think tanks and has personally financially supported and started a variety of left-of-center organizations including CODEPINK, People’s Power Initiative, Stamp Stampede, and Eisenhower Media Network. 1 2 Cohen is of Jewish descent but has been critical of Israel, supporting the decision of Ben & Jerry’s to halt sales in the West Bank in 2021 and signing on to a 2024 letter denouncing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)‘s advocacy efforts in the United States. 3

Cohen is also the founder of the cannabis company Ben’s Best Blnz, or B3. 4

Early Life and Business Career

Ben Cohen founded Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream in 1978 with his childhood friend Jerry Greenfield, with whom he grew up in New York City. The ice cream company was based in Burlington, Vermont, and the brand remains actively connected to Vermont politics and culture. Cohen was the CEO of the companyuntil 1994, and in 2000, the company was sold to Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company. 5 6  

In 1985, the pair started the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation which was funded with shares of Ben & Jerry’s after a public stock offering and with an additional pledge of 7.5 percent of the company’s profits. The Foundation funds left-of-center organizations throughout the United States, particularly in Vermont. 7 8

Activism

Ben Cohen is known as an outspoken activist on left-of-center issues encompassing geopolitical affairs, social issues, and economic issues. He has supported the 2016 and 2020 campaigns for President of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), serving as a national co-chair for the 2020 Sanders campaign. 9

In 2021, Cohen supported Ben & Jerry’s decision to halt ice cream sales in the West Bank to protest an alleged “illegal occupation.” Cohen told an Axios reporter, “We hugely support Israel’s right to exist but we are against a particular policy.” 10

Cohen has been arrested while protesting multiple times, including while protesting the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and in protest of the arrest of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. 11

Cohen has also opposed U.S. military aid and funding for Ukraine following the 2022 Russian invasion, stating that “The U.S. could use its power to advocate for a negotiated settlement, but instead it’s using its power to prolong the war — prolong and prolong and increase the death and destruction.” 12

In March 2024, Cohen was one of several signatories of “A Statement From Jewish Americans Opposing AIPAC,” a letter that denounced the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s advocacy efforts in the United States. 13

Cannabis Company

In April 2023, it was announced that Cohen had started Ben’s Best Blnz or B3, a cannabis product company with a business plan aimed at funding left-of-center drug liberalization policies and organizations. According to the company’s website, it plans to “sell Great Pot and use the power of our business to Right the Wrongs of the War on Drugs.” The model of the company is to partner with for-profit organizations that would pay the company royalties for trademarks and formulas. 14

After expenses, most of the group’s royalty profits would be used to get people “convicted of nonviolent, cannabis-related crimes out of jail, getting their criminal records expunged, advocating for marijuana to be removed from the federal government’s Schedule 1 list […] and investing in Black-owned cannabis businesses.” According to CBS News and the B3 website, nearly 80 percent of profits would be given to Black-owned cannabis businesses and the remainder would be provided to advocacy groups including Vermont Racial Justice Alliance and the Last Prisoner Project, the latter of which seeks to keep people convicted for marijuana possession from being incarcerated. 15

References

  1. Camut, Nicolas. “Why Ben from Ben & Jerry’s Blames America for War in Ukraine.” Politico. July 20, 2023. Accessed April 25, 2024. https://www.politico.eu/article/ben-cohen-ukraine-war-russia-blames-america-ben-and-jerrys/
  2. Karpen, Elizabeth. “Ben & Jerry’s: The Jewish history, social activism, and controversies of an iconic ice cream brand.” Jewish Unpacked. October 9, 2023. https://jewishunpacked.com/ben-jerrys-the-jewish-history-social-activism-and-controversies-of-an-iconic-ice-cream-brand/
  3. “A Statement From Jewish Americans Opposing AIPAC”. The Nation. March 20, 2024. Accessed April 27, 2024. https://thenation.com/article/politics/a-statement-from-jewish-americans-opposing-aipac/
  4. Singh, Simrin. “Ben & Jerry’s co-founder starts cannabis nonprofit to support social causes.” CBS News, April 25, 2023. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ben-cohen-ben-jerrys-nonprofit-cannabis-business-b3/
  5. “2019 Grant Recipients.” Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, 2019. https://benandjerrysfoundation.org/files/new%20pdfs/2019%20Full%20Year%20Grant%20List.pdf.
  6. “Meet the Staff and Trustees.” BEN & JERRY’S FOUNDATION. Accessed April 27, 2024. https://benandjerrysfoundation.org/who-we-are.html
  7. “2019 Grant Recipients.” Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, 2019. https://benandjerrysfoundation.org/files/new%20pdfs/2019%20Full%20Year%20Grant%20List.pdf.
  8. “Meet the Staff and Trustees.” BEN & JERRY’S FOUNDATION. Accessed April 27, 2024. https://benandjerrysfoundation.org/who-we-are.html
  9. “Sanders Campaign Announces First Co-Chairs” (Press release). Bernie 2020. February 21, 2019. Accessed April 27, 2024. https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/sanders-campaign-press-release-sanders-campaign-announces-first-co-chairs
  10. Karpen, Elizabeth. “Ben & Jerry’s: The Jewish history, social activism, and controversies of an iconic ice cream brand.” Jewish Unpacked. October 9, 2023. https://jewishunpacked.com/ben-jerrys-the-jewish-history-social-activism-and-controversies-of-an-iconic-ice-cream-brand/
  11. Karpen, Elizabeth. “Ben & Jerry’s: The Jewish history, social activism, and controversies of an iconic ice cream brand.” Jewish Unpacked. October 9, 2023. https://jewishunpacked.com/ben-jerrys-the-jewish-history-social-activism-and-controversies-of-an-iconic-ice-cream-brand/
  12. Thys, Fred. “Vermont nonprofit founded by ice cream magnate Ben Cohen opposes U.S. support for Ukraine”. The VTDigger. Accessed April 27, 2024. https://vtdigger.org/2023/03/20/vermont-nonprofit-founded-by-ice-cream-magnate-ben-cohen-opposes-u-s-support-for-ukraine/
  13. “A Statement From Jewish Americans Opposing AIPAC”. The Nation. March 20, 2024. Accessed April 27, 2024. https://thenation.com/article/politics/a-statement-from-jewish-americans-opposing-aipac/
  14. Singh, Simrin. “Ben & Jerry’s co-founder starts cannabis nonprofit to support social causes.” CBS News, April 25, 2023. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ben-cohen-ben-jerrys-nonprofit-cannabis-business-b3/
  15. Singh, Simrin. “Ben & Jerry’s co-founder starts cannabis nonprofit to support social causes.” CBS News, April 25, 2023. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ben-cohen-ben-jerrys-nonprofit-cannabis-business-b3/
  See an error? Let us know!