Ben & Jerry’s recently announced that it will no longer sell its beloved ice cream products in occupied Palestinian territories, citing inconsistencies with its core values.
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the brand said in a statement on its website. “We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”
The decision follows an outcry over the bloody 11-day war that occurred in May. At least 230 Palestinians and 12 Israelis were killed, including women and children, according to data compiled by the Associated Press. However, the company’s independent board has been pushing to pull its products from the territories for years, its leader told NBC News.
Unlike other major food brands, Ben & Jerry’s has a long history of taking public stances on social justice issues. Under the values section of its website, the company states:
We can use traditional and contemporary business tools to drive systemic progressive social change by advancing the strategies of the larger movements that deal with those issues, such as climate justice and social equity.
At the same time, parent company Unilever expressed its commitment to its presence in Israel.
“We remain fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands, and business for several decades,” parent company Unilever said in a separate statement. “We have always recognized the right of the brand and its independent board to take decisions about its social mission. We also welcome the fact that Ben & Jerry’s will stay in Israel.”
According to NBC News, Ben & Jerry’s independent board was created “so that a progressive business could ensure its independence and protect its values when acquired by a large corporation.” However, Anuradha Mittal, the chair of the independent board, told the outlet that Unilever’s statement was released without its approval.
“The statement released by Ben & Jerry’s regarding its operation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (the OPT) does not reflect the position of the independent board, nor was it approved by the independent board,” the board said in its own statement. “By taking a position and publishing a statement without the approval of the independent board on an issue directly related to Ben & Jerry’s social mission and brand integrity, Unilever and its CEO at Ben & Jerry’s are in violation of the spirit and the letter of the acquisition agreement.”
To block the sales, Ben & Jerry’s said it “informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year.” Any decision for sales to proceed in Isreal “through a different arrangement” would be subject to board approval, Mittal told NBC News.
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