General Mills Added to JLens' Do Not Invest List for Acquiescing to BDS
Updated: Aug 23, 2022
August 23, 2022 UPDATE - General Mills has notified JLens that they are partially reversing their decision to entirely remove Pillsbury products from Israel and will continue to sell some Pillsbury products. While we are pleased that the company is willing to make changes based on the concerns JLens raised, given that General Mills has repeatedly shared false information with us, we have requested and are awaiting additional information to assess the company's decision-making with respect to Israel.
August 17, 2022 - General Mills (ticker: GIS) has been added to JLens’ Do Not Invest list for acquiescing to BDS and making misleading statements to the Jewish community and investors. Following two years of sustained pressure against Pillsbury (a General Mills brand) by the BDS campaign, the company has acquiesced to BDS and plans to remove all Pillsbury-branded products from the Israeli market. The company tried to hide this decision by providing misleading and contradictory information to the Jewish community, and to JLens. Following extensive research, JLens has concluded that:
General Mills is removing the Pillsbury brand in its entirety from Israel, effectively amounting to a Pillsbury boycott of Israel after two years of pressure from the BDS campaign against the Pillsbury brand
The Pillsbury products currently sold in Israel include refrigerated dough, dry mixes, and other baking products. Following the implementation of the company’s divestiture plan, no Pillsbury-branded products will be sold in Israel.
General Mills provided misleading information to investors and the Jewish community by claiming the Pillsbury divestiture is part of a broader divestiture away from refrigerated dough products outside of North America. However, that information does not explain the removal of the entire Pillsbury brand from Israel including non-refrigerated dry mixes and baking products
Pillsbury products continue to be sold in numerous countries around the world, and in the Middle East including in Saudi Arabia and UAE
For over two years, Pillsbury has been targeted by the BDS campaign for the company’s ties to Israel, including manufacturing Pillsbury refrigerated dough products at a factory in East Jerusalem. In February 2020, the United Nations Human Rights Council published a list of 112 companies, including General Mills, with activities related to the settlements. In April 2021, heirs of the Pillsbury family attacked Israel and called for a boycott. JLens has maintained a long-term investor advocacy relationship with General Mills since 2018. The company was among 300 companies included in JLens’ Jewish Advocacy Strategy, a Jewish values-based investment offering with over $200 million from Jewish institutional investors, and General Mills was a constituent in JLens' Global Jewish Values Index. During a recent investor advocacy meeting in November 2021, General Mills told JLens that Israel was a good market for the company and mentioned the Pillsbury dough joint venture in particular. However, in May 2022, General Mills announced that the company “sold its stake in its joint venture in Israel, which principally markets dough products” and that “the divestiture follows our earlier announcement of the proposed sale of our European dough business.” Following claims of victory by the BDS campaign, General Mills stated: “We have made clear the global business strategy that drove this decision. Any claims by others taking credit for this decision are false. We continue to sell our products in Israel and look forward to continuing to serve Israeli consumers with our other brands.” General Mills tried to explain the divestiture as part of the company's global business strategy to move away from refrigerated dough outside of North America, and pointed to a recent sale of a refrigerated dough business in Europe. While this may explain the removal of refrigerated Pillsbury dough products from Israel, it doesn’t explain the removal of all the other Pillsbury products from Israel. To be clear, multiple Pillsbury-branded product lines are being pulled from multiple Israeli distributors that have nothing to do with refrigerated dough or the factory in East Jerusalem. Essentially the Pillsbury brand in its entirety will no longer be sold in Israel, while it continues to be sold in numerous countries around the world. Over the past few months, JLens has engaged in extensive dialogue with General Mills representatives to better understand the divestiture announcement and its implications for Pillsbury-branded products sold throughout Israel. Unfortunately, the company provided misleading and contradictory information. Companies are added to JLens’ Do Not Invest list when corporate behavior does not align with Jewish values, including support for Israel and ethical business conduct. We are disappointed by General Mills’ decision to boycott Israel entirely with the Pillsbury brand, to acquiesce to BDS-created controversy, and to not stand with the Jewish people and Israel against a discriminatory campaign. While General Mills aims to be viewed as socially responsible, boycotting Israel and providing misleading information to investors are not the actions of socially responsible corporations.
1. During JLens’ evaluation of General Mills’ Pillsbury divestiture from Israel, General Mills repeatedly provided false information including:
The Pillsbury-branded products sold in Israel - General Mills falsely stated that they only sell Pillsbury-branded refrigerated dough products in Israel when in fact they sell over a dozen Pillsbury-branded non-refrigerated products including dry mixes and baking products
The motivation for the divestiture - General Mills explained the divestiture is part of their strategy to exit the Pillsbury refrigerated dough business outside of North America, however this doesn't explain why they are eliminating the entire Pillsbury brand from Israel including over a dozen non-refrigerated products.
The location of Pillsbury products sold around the world - General Mills falsely stated that Pillsbury refrigerated dough products are not sold anywhere outside the US and Canada, and that Pillsbury dry mixes are sold primarily in India and South America. However, JLens found Pillsbury refrigerated and non-refrigerated products for sale in many countries, and a new distribution partnership with Saudi Arabia to distribute Pillsbury products in the Middle East and North Africa.
2. While attention has been paid to the Pillsbury factory in East Jerusalem, General Mills’ decision goes well beyond the fate of the East Jerusalem factory. Company representatives have explained that they are completely pulling the Pillsbury brand from Israel, despite the fact that Pillsbury products have a twenty-five year history in Israel, and are made in over 20 factories throughout Israel.
3. General Mills has been a target of the BDS campaign for over two years and was added to the United Nations Human Rights Council blacklist in 2020. While couching this divestiture as a ‘business’ decision, General Mills has admitted their goal of removing the company from the UN blacklist and intends to ask for removal following the implementation of the Pillsbury divestiture from Israel.