Unilever fully withdraws factory from West Bank
British-Dutch multinational Unilever has informed Dutch NGO United Civilians for Peace (UCP) that the company no longer operates two production lines of daughter company Beigel and Beigel. Beigel and Beigel is a snack food factory, established in Barkan, the industrial zone of the Israeli settlement Ariël in the occupied West Bank. The production lines have been transferred to Unilever’s plant in Safed, behind the Green Line in Israel proper.
UCP expresses its content for the fact that Unilever, after years of hesitation, finally came to terms. From 2006 onward UCP has urged the company to withdraw Beigel and Beigel from the occupied territories. UCP stresses that dialogue and pressure from society have prevailed in bringing the British-Dutch giant towards its decision. Unilever will now serve as an example for each and other company [involved in the illegal West Bank business].
“Unilever’s decision is a clear message to the Israeli government that international businesses will back off from its settlement policy. UCP has always stressed that ‘no justice can result from unjustice’, and that Unilever’s decision was both justified and unavoidable” – says UCP spokesman Guido van Leemput. “It will serve as the ultimate example for other Dutch and multinational companies to give up their interests in and with the settlements.”
Multinational global giant Unilever confirmed Monday that as of January 1, 2013 its snack and pretzel factory located in the Barkan industrial zone of the Ariel settlement is no longer operational. The company has withdrawn the production line of its subsidiary, Beigel and Beigel, and transfered it to a plant in Safed, Israel on the other side of the Green Line.
The announcement comes just four days after UN fact finding mission issued a blockbuster report calling on governments and companies to terminate business interests in the settlements. Unilever claims the move is a result of “pure business motives‘.
Regardless of the motives the significance of this decision can not be underestimated. Unilever, a UK and Dutch company headquartered in Rotterdam, Netherlands, is the third-largest consumer goods company in the world measured by 2011 revenues.
The Dutch group United Civilians for Peace (UCP) began pressuring Unilever over their Barkan factory in 2006. Two years later in 2008 the French supermarket group Carrefour and British department store Harrods boycotted the snacks and Unilever announced it would divest from Beigel and Beigel but that didn’t happen.
The UN report released last Thursday calls for companies and governments to “assess the human rights impact of their activities” and end any connection to the settlements:
117. Private companies must assess the human rights impact of their activities and take all necessary steps – including by terminating their business interests in the settlements – to ensure they are not adversely impacting the human rights of the Palestinian People in conformity with international law as well as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Mission calls upon all Member States to take appropriate measures to ensure that business enterprises domiciled in their territory and/or under their jurisdiction, including those owned or controlled by them, that conduct activities in or related to the settlements respect human rights throughout their operations. The Mission recommends that the Human Rights Council Working Group on Business and Human Rights be seized of this matter.