Owner tells Ben & Jerry’s to ‘stay out of debate’ on Israel sales

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The ice cream maker’s parent company Unilever had to step in to solve the issue with sales boycott

The CEO of Unilever, which owns ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, advised its brands to keep away from matters where they lack expertise. 

On subjects where Unilever brands don’t have the expertise or credibility, we think it’s best that they stay out of the debate,” Alan Jope said during a conference call with the press on Thursday.

Jope’s words referred to last year’s decision by Ben & Jerry’s to stop selling its ice cream in the ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’ of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, stating that selling its ice cream there is a move “inconsistent” with the company’s values. Initially, Unilever did not protest the boycott, with Jope saying last August the company does not interfere in the actions of independent boards. However, now the company, which employs thousands in Israel and has millions invested there, is working on creating a “new arrangement” for Ben & Jerry’s sales in Israel, and recommended its board to not interfere in the matter.

Our absolute focus right now is to figure out what the new arrangement will be for Ben & Jerry’s,” Jope stated, adding that the arrangement is expected to come around by year’s end.

Still, Jope did not criticize the politically-charged ice cream brand’s decision and even praised it for its activism.

Ben & Jerry’s is a great brand – most of the time they get it right – they have a great track record of campaigning on important issues that are relevant to their consumers,” Jope said.

In its most recent activism case, Ben & Jerry’s last week targeted US President Joe Biden for his stance on the mounting tensions over Ukraine.

“You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war,” Ben & Jerry’s said on Twitter, while also calling on Biden directly to “de-escalate tensions and work for peace rather than prepare for war.”

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