Ben & Jerry’s Sues Unilever to Stop Selling their Products in Israel

Ben & Jerry's Sues Unilever to Stop Selling their Products in Israel
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20: Ben and Jerry's ice cream is stored in a cooler at an event where founders Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen gave away ice cream to bring attention to police reform at the U.S. Supreme Court on May 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. The two are urging the ending of police qualified immunity. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

American ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s is taking its parent company Unilever to court today to stop selling their ice cream in Israel.

The Backstory:

In 2021, the company’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, publicly stated their support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which pressures Israel into backing away from military action in Palestine, and that they want to stop selling in Israel because it is inconsistent with their values. 

Unilever’s Reaction:

In 2000, Unilever bought the company, and they now claim they have the final decision on where the company sells its products, including in Israel. 

This, however, violates the contract since Ben and Jerry’s was sold under the condition that the original owners have the sole responsibility over the company’s social mission.

To everyone’s surprise, almost a year after the statement by Ben & Jerry, Unilever announced that they agreed to sell the ice cream maker’s Israeli operation to its existing local licensee, who would continue selling into these areas.

Additionally, Unilever has ceased paying Ben & Jerry’s independent board members, who claim that the freeze was a “pressure tactic prior to a mediation that took place last week.” 

Going to Court:

The decision to go to court was due to the sale of the company without prior notice to the founders and board members. 

“This decision for us to go to court is because of Unilever’s (UL) sale without our input, which is a clear violation of the letter and the spirit of our original acquisition agreement with Unilever,” board chairperson Anuradha Mittal said in an interview with Reuters. 

“If Unilever is willing to so blatantly violate the agreement that has governed the parties’ conduct for over two decades, then we believe it won’t stop with this issue.”

“If left unaddressed, Unilever’s actions will undermine our social mission and essential integrity of the brand, which threatens our reputation and ultimately our business as a whole,” she added.

Last month, Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever tried to reach an out-of-court deal on the spat but on Monday notified a federal court they had failed to do so. A hearing on Ben & Jerry’s request to block the sale is scheduled for today.

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Written by Raghda El-Sayed

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of El-Shai.com and the crazy cat lady your mother warned you not to become!

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