The board governing Colorado’s public pension fund voted unanimously on Friday to move forward with divesting from the British conglomerate Unilever over a decision by its subsidiary, Ben and Jerry’s, to stop selling ice cream in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.
As of Friday, officials said, Colorado’s $61 billion pension fund had $42 million invested in Unilever, The Denver Post reported.
The move was triggered after Ben and Jerry’s announced in July 2021 that it would no longer sell products in what it deemed “Occupied Palestinian Territory.” According to legislation passed by Colorado in 2016, the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA), which manages the state’s public pension fund, is required to divest from international companies with economic prohibitions against Israel. PERA must inform the company that it holds a “restricted” status and faces the possibility of divestment. The company then has 180 days to cease its boycott of Israel or risk divestment.
“Long story short, Ben and Jerry’s has made comments that are politically motivated, for leaving Israel,” PERA’s Chief Investment Officer Amy McGarrity told the board ahead of the Friday morning vote. “What that means is there’s a moratorium … on purchasing Unilever throughout our direct holdings.”
McGarrity said following the board’s vote, “We will engage with the company for the next 180 days, and if we still continue to believe they are subject to divestment, then we will divest within 12 months.”
A number of US states with similar legislation designed to prevent taxpayer funds from supporting the Palestinian-led boycott campaign against Israel have already withdrawn their investments, stocks, and pension funds from Unilever, including Florida, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Texas.