Unilever is trying to put Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Israel in the freezer.
By Pesach Benson, United with Israel
Trying to put Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Israel in the freezer, Unilever CEO Alan Jope said the ice cream company should avoid “straying into geopolitics.”
“There is plenty for Ben & Jerry’s to get their teeth into on their social justice mission without straying into geopolitics,” Jope told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
“I’m sure the brand will continue to enjoy a very bright future doing just that.”
Jope also told the Journal that Ben & Jerry’s should stick to issues like climate change and other social justice issues which the company already has an established history in.
Ben & Jerry’s filed a lawsuit against Unilever in July after the London-based parent company allowed Avi Zinger, the manufacturer and distributor of Ben & Jerry’s products in Israel, to allow him to continue selling the brand’s offerings in Judea and Samaria.
Under the terms of the agreement with Unilever, Zinger will be allowed to use the Ben & Jerry’s logo and branding on products as long as the products use Hebrew or Arabic, but not English text. Zinger has no geographic restrictions on sales.
Zinger will also operate independently of Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s.
Ben & Jerry’s disagrees with Unilever’s move.
“Unilever’s arrangement means Ben and Jerry’s in Israel will be owned and operated by AQP [American Quality Products, Ltd]. Our company will no longer profit from Ben & Jerry’s in Israel,” the Vermont-based company said after the Unilever-Zinger settlement was announced.
“We continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry’s values for our ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the company stressed.
But despite the disagreement, Jope said Unilever has no plans to sell the subsidiary.
“The long-term future of Ben & Jerry’s is squarely part of Unilever,” he told the Journal.
After Ben & Jerry’s first announced its intention to boycott Israel in July 2021, the London-based Unilever came under tremendous pressure to move against its subsidiary.
Relations between Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s became increasingly strained as a number of U.S. with anti-BDS legislation announced that they had or planned to divest their holdings in Unilever. The conglomerate also stood to be frozen out of future government contracts.
Unilever’s investors also complained, with one filing a lawsuit accusing Jope and the board of directors of misleading shareholders.
The conglomerate acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000. Under the terms of the acquisition, Ben & Jerry’s board is supposed to have a free hand in managing the company’s brand and social justice activities. Of Ben & Jerry’s 11-member board, only two are appointed by Unilever.
Unilever’s 400 brands include a wide variety of familiar consumer goods such as Dove personal care products, Lipton tea, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Sunlight soap.
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