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September 24, 2021 11:29 am

Texas Puts Ben & Jerry’s, Parent Company Unilever on List of Companies Boycotting Israel

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Tubs of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, a Unilever brand, are seen at their shop in London. Photo: Reuters/Hannah McKay

Effective Thursday, Ben & Jerry’s and its London-based parent company Unilever have been added to the Texas state list of companies that boycott Israel, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced.

The action was taken in accordance with Texas Government Code Chapter 808 prohibiting the investment in companies that “boycott Israel” — defined as “refusing to deal with, terminating business activities with, or otherwise taking any action that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or with a person or entity doing business in Israel or in an Israeli-controlled territory.”

Including Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever, 11 companies are now on the Texas list of companies. The news comes a little over two months after the ice cream maker announced on July 19 that it would no longer sell its products in what it described as “the Occupied Palestinian Territory” because “it is inconsistent with our [company] values.”

Hegar said his office worked with research providers and “carefully reviewed statements and activities” by both Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever “before concluding that they are suitable candidates for the Texas list.”

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He added, “Texas law is clear on this issue, and my office has long supported Israel through our Israel bond holdings as well as our lists of scrutinized companies with ties to Iran and those with ties to foreign terrorist organizations.”

According to Texas Government Code Chapter 808, the state government must send a written notice informing Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever about their addition to the list; warning that they “may become subject to divestment” by governmental entities; and offering them the opportunity to explain their “Israel-related activities.” The companies both have 90 days from when they receive the notification to cease boycotting Israel “in order to avoid qualifying for divestment by state governmental entities.”

If, after 90 days, the companies continue their boycott of Israel, the state government “shall sell, redeem, divest, or withdraw all publicly traded securities” of the companies, except in rare circumstances.

Earlier in September, officials in Arizona and New Jersey both said they would divest from Unilever as a response to Ben & Jerry’s Israel decision. New York and Illinois have threatened similar action, and Florida is also expected to divest from Unilever in October. Maryland and Rhode Island are among the states that said in July they would examine if Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Israeli territories would require divestment from Unilever in accordance with state laws.

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