TALLAHASSEE – The clock is ticking for the parent company of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
The state has given Unilever until Oct. 26 to reverse Ben and Jerry’s plans to stop selling in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank.
If the policy isn’t reversed, the company faces economic consequences.
On July 19, Ben and Jerry’s announced it would no longer sell its ice cream in the West Bank after the year 2022, saying, “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for our product to be present within an internationally recognized illegal occupation.”
“I have not seen any meaningful response from Unilever. Period,” Ash Williams, executive director of Florida’s State Board of Administration, said at a September cabinet meeting.
At the meeting, the cabinet gave the go-ahead for the state to divest all Unilever stock if the company doesn’t reverse its West Bank policy within 90 days.
“It’s a small part of our overall portfolio, as you might imagine,” said Williams.
Those investments now total about $139 million.
“If 90 days tolls from the notice they are given, then we are barred by law from making any additional investments in the securities of that firm, so that’s exactly what we’ll do,” said Williams.
The state won’t just be selling its shares in Unilever.
Once the 90-day period is over, no government agency in Florida can buy its products.
“I would guess there are probably a fair number of public institutions that are buying those products. I don’t think they will be after the 26th of October unless Unilever is responsive on this issue,” said Williams.
In 2019, the state put AirBNB on the scrutinized list after it said it would refuse to offer listings in the West Bank.
The company relented just days before the penalties would have kicked in.
In a statement, Unilever said that while it will not sell Ben and Jerry’s in the occupied zone, it will remain in Israel, where it employs 2,000 people in four factories.