FL & AZ Divest from Ben & Jerry's
By Micah Halpern
Tuesday September 21, 2021
Florida and Arizona are finalizing their divestment from Unilever, the owner of Ben & Jerrys.
Ash Williams, executive director and chief investment officer of the State Board of Administration of Florida told the Miami Herald that he anticipated Unilever will be added to what is known as Florida’s list of “scrutinized companies that boycott Israel” prohibiting state investments and contracts with the companies.
The Florida announcement came shortly after Arizona made a similar announcement indicating that it is pulling all the public funds it has invested in the ice cream parlor chain.
Ben & Jerry's pro-BDS statement was issued last July following pressure from pro-Palestinian groups on the Vermont-based company over its business in Israel and Jewish settlements in the West Bank, handled through a licensee partner since 1987.
The company also said it will not renew the license agreement with its Israeli franchise when it expires at the end of next year.
Arizona state treasurer Kimberly Yee — a Republican who is running for governor of her state — said the decision to pull all public funds invested in the frozen dessert company was in compliance with a 2019 state law that bars Arizona government agencies from holding investments or doing more than $100,000 in business with any firm that boycotts Israel or its territories.
On her Twitter feed, Yee posted: "Arizona created a national movement holding companies accountable for boycotting Israel by divesting public funds from woke companies … Israel is and will continue to be a major trade partner of AZ. #IStandWithIsrael and I will not allow taxpayer dollars to go towards anti-Semitic, discriminatory efforts against Israel.”
Arizona and Florida are the first states to have fully divested themselves from Ben & Jerry's and Unilever while Illinois and New Jersey, among other states, warned they would pull any public-funded investments if the company's board does not change its decision within three months.
Florida and Arizona have $139 million and $143 million, respectively, in holdings in Unilever and its subsidiaries. That is over a ¼ billion dollars.
This is significant. And this is just the beginning.
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