A US federal judge on Monday denied a motion by Ben & Jerry’s to block a plan by its parent company to allow its products to be sold to East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank against the wishes of the Vermont-based ice cream maker’s independent board of directors.
Posted at 5:48pm
According to Judge Andrew Carter, Ben & Jerry’s failed to show that London-based consumer goods group Unilever’s decision would harm Ben & Jerry’s social mission or confuse its customers.
In his tripartite decision, Mr. Carter says the damages claimed by Ben & Jerry’s are “too speculative.”
“Products sold in Israel and the West Bank will not use English characters, instead featuring Ben & Jerry’s new Hebrew and Arabic characters,” he wrote in the decision. As a result, products sold in Israel and the West Bank are distinct from other Ben & Jerry’s products, mitigating if not eliminating the possibility of reputational damage. »
Ben & Jerry’s spokesman Sean Greenwood said Monday the company had “no new views to share at this time.”
Ben & Jerry’s complaint in the case, filed last month, outlined the company’s tradition of social activism throughout its 44-year history, including opposing US spending on nuclear weapons in the 1980s and its support for the rights of LGBTQ+ communities and Farmers in the 1990s.
This activism continued after its acquisition by Unilever in 2000, with a focus on migrant justice and climate change, among others. Following the death of George Floyd in 2020, Ben & Jerry’s became the advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Last year, Ben & Jerry’s independent board of directors announced it would halt sales of its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying sales in Palestinian-held territories were “inconsistent with our values.”
Earlier this year, Unilever announced that it was selling its interest in Ben & Jerry’s in Israel to its Israeli licensee, who would market the products with Hebrew and Arabic labels.
In its lawsuit, Ben & Jerry’s argued that Unilever’s decision posed a “risk” to the integrity of its brand. Ben & Jerry’s also claimed the deal violated the 2000 acquisition agreement, which allowed Ben & Jerry’s to pursue its progressive social mission independently of Unilever’s business decisions.
Unilever didn’t immediately respond to an email on Monday, but the company has said in the past that it has the right to sell and that “the deal is already closed”.
While the 2000 acquisition agreement allowed Ben & Jerry’s board of directors to make decisions about the company’s social mission, it stipulated that Unilever should have the final say on financial and operational decisions.