Ben & Jerry’s independent board of directors called for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, risking a renewed feud with parent company Unilever.
Independent board chair Anuradha Mittal told the Financial Times peace was “a core value of Ben & Jerry’s” and called for a “permanent and immediate ceasefire”.
The ice cream maker has been vocal about its stance on Israel-Palestine politics over the years, which has previously resulted in a legal dispute with Unilever.
Mittal said the independent board of Ben & Jerry’s had made its decision to call for a ceasefire independently, noting the business was an autonomous subsidiary of the consumer goods giant and that the board was responsible for the brand’s “social mission and essential brand integrity”.
The role of Ben & Jerry’s independent board of directors, originally set up when founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield sold the company to Unilever nearly 24 years ago, is to uphold the business’s environmental, social and governance values.
She added that board members were confident their stance on a permanent ceasefire in Gaza was “consistent with the history and values of our company”.
Ben & Jerry’s head of communications Kerry Thorpe reiterated the statement was “on behalf of the independent board and the company has no additional comment at this time”.
“We are aware that the Ben & Jerry’s independent board of directors has released a statement in support of peace and a ceasefire in Gaza,” she told The Grocer.
Thorpe added: “Ben & Jerry’s has a long history of supporting peace and peace building.”
Ben & Jerry’s is one of the few companies to have publicly commented on the Israel-Palestine conflict over the years, which has earned it a turbulent relationship with its own parent company.
It attempted to stop selling its ice creams in occupied Palestinian territories – which the UN defines as the West Bank and Gaza Strip – in 2021, a move that was rebuffed by Unilever, which sold the Israeli arm of the brand to local licensee Avi Zinger.
Ben & Jerry’s then filed a lawsuit against Unilever in an attempt to prevent this. The Dove and Magnum maker said the legal dispute was “resolved” in December 2022.
Unilever has declined to comment on the independent board’s permanent ceasefire statement.
“It is stunning that millions are marching around the world but the corporate world has been silent,” Mittal told the FT.