Ben & Jerry’s has a reputation as a socially progressive company. So it makes sense that the ice-cream maker’s board doesn’t want its frozen treats to be sold in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which the United Nations has long considered illegal under international law.
But Ben & Jerry’s may not have a choice in the matter. This week, a New York judge ruled that Unilever, its parent company, can move ahead with a deal that will allow the ice cream to be sold by an Israeli licensee in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, over the board’s objections.
Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s declined to comment.
Ben & Jerry’s corporate activism, in ice-cream form
Ben & Jerry’s attempt to stop the sale of its products in the West Bank is in keeping with the company’s long history of taking strong political stances. In the summer of 2020 in the US, when many corporations attempted to weigh in on racial inequality after years of ignoring the issue, Ben & Jerry’s emerged as one of the most credible supporters of Black Lives Matter thanks to its well-established corporate activism in areas like criminal-justice reform.
In fact, the Vermont-based brand, founded in 1978, is known not just for outspoken advocacy on issues ranging from climate change to economic inequality, but also for expressing its social values in the form of limited-edition frozen desserts. The Peace Pop, for example, introduced in 1988, promoted 1% for Peace, a nonprofit founded by Ben & Jerry’s owners promoting international peace efforts.
Here’s a non-exhaustive look back at some its other flavorful forays into social and environmental justice over the years:
🐒1988: “Rainforest Crunch,” meant to support indigenous nut cooperatives and protect the Amazon rainforest, famously fails to deliver on its political premise
🌳 2002: The Dave Matthews Band collaborates with Ben & Jerry’s on “One Sweet Whirled,” with a portion of proceeds going to the Save Our Environment organization
🇺🇸 2009: Proceeds from “Yes Pecan!”—a pun on Barack Obama’s campaign tagline—go to the Common Cause Education Fund, which encourages US citizens to participate in politics
🌎 2015: The “Save Our Swirled” flavor supports climate change action at the Paris Agreement talks that year
🗳️ 2016: Ben & Jerry’s campaign to combat voter suppression gets a publicity boost from “Empower Mint,” with a portion of profits going to the NAACP in North Carolina
🙅♀️ 2018: “Pecan Resist” protests the impact of US president Donald Trump’s policies on women, immigrants, people of color, and the environment
🌶️ 2019: Racial-justice advocacy group The Advancement Project partners with Ben & Jerry’s on Justice ReMix’d, featuring chocolate and cinnamon ice cream along with cinnamon-bun dough and spicy brownies
✊🏿 2021: Football player and racial equality activist Colin Kaepernick helps create the vegan flavor “Change the Whirled”
☕ 2021: The “Change Is Brewing” flavor features coffee, brownies, and art by Black-owned businesses in support of US representative Cori Bush’s legislation for police reform
🍫 Coming in 2023: Chocolatey Love A-fair, a new flavor created in partnership with chocolate company Tony’s Chocolonely, promotes the “mission to end modern slavery in cocoa farming”