“The Illinois Investment Policy Board vote to add Unilever to the state’s prohibited entity list was unanimous.”
Illinois has joined a growing list of states divesting from Unilever over its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s decision to restrict the distribution of its ice cream in parts of Israel.
On Wednesday, the Illinois Investment Policy Board voted unanimously to divest state employee pension funds from Unilever. The seven-member board added Ben & Jerry’s parent company “to its prohibited entity list,” the Reuters reported.
The move was in response to Ben & Jerry’s announcement made in July to stop selling its products in the so-called “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” a reference to Israel’s Judea and Samaria region as well as East Jerusalem. The Vermont-based company cancelled a nationwide licensing deal with the Israeli distributor after it objected to the decision to stop selling the ice dream throughout the country.
The Reuters reported Illinois Investment Policy Board’s vote:
An Illinois board overseeing state employee pension funds on Wednesday voted to bar funds from holding Unilever PLC shares due to sales limits by the company’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand in Israel, joining at least five other U.S. states moving to restrict the stock.
A representative for the Illinois Investment Policy Board said it voted 7-0 at a meeting on Wednesday “to add Unilever to its prohibited entity list,” following similar moves by other states including New York and New Jersey.
Unilever representatives did not immediately respond to questions.
An exact value of Unilever shares that state funds must now sell, if they own them, was not immediately available. Members of the board include representatives of Illinois teachers and university retirement systems and the Illinois State Board of Investment, who did not immediately respond to questions Wednesday evening.
Like other states Illinois law bars investments in companies that boycott Israel. Ben & Jerry’s moved in July to end a license for its ice cream to be sold in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying sales there were “inconsistent with its values.
With Wednesday’s vote, Illinois became the fifth state to pull its pension funds from the parent company over Ben & Jerry’s Israel boycott. Arizona, Florida, New Jersey and New York have already divested from Unilever.
Unilever has distanced itself from Ben & Jerry’s decision, but has refused to intervene, claiming that the move was taken by the subsidiary’s “independent social-mission board.”
Proud of my home state of Illinois, which voted to join Arizona, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Texas in divesting pension funds from Unilever. because it owns Ben&Jerrys and has refused to reverse the company's discriminatory decision to cut ties with its factory in #Israel.
— Gil Hoffman (@Gil_Hoffman) December 23, 2021
In 2015, Illinois became the first U.S. state to approve a bill that prevents its pension funds from investing in companies that boycott Israel. “This anti-boycott law requires the creation of a state-run blacklist of foreign companies that boycott Israel and “territories controlled by Israel” and compels the state’s pension fund to divest from and prohibit investment in those companies,” the Illinois bill says. The bill was followed by similar legislations in 32 other states.
The Ben & Jerry’s decision was met with cheers from the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign and leftists agitators from across the world. “The groundswell for Palestinian freedom has reached new levels.” The Guardian, a leading leftwing British newspaper, declared. “It’s only a matter of time before other companies take Ben & Jerry’s lead,” the daily triumphantly added.
The initial news reports do not mention the actual worth of the bonds set to be divested, but the state’s pension fund investment in the company could be well in the tens of millions. In September, Arizona “sold off $93 million in Unilever bonds and plan[ed] to sell the remaining $50 million” over the Ben & Jerry’s Israel boycott, The Associated Press noted.DONATE
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