Pressure Increases to Stop Business in Russia

March 22, 2022
Western companies are coming under increasing pressure to stop operating in Russia, with some being accused of saying one thing but doing another.

Western companies are coming under increasing pressure to stop operating in Russia, with some being accused of saying one thing but doing another.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has publicly called out Nestlé and Unilever for continuing to operate in Russia after its invasion of his country. In remarks broadcast to a demonstration in the Swiss capital of Bern, Zelenskiy said, “'Good food. Good life.' This is the slogan of Nestlé, your company that refuses to leave Russia.”

Some Western companies offer various justifications for continuing to operate in Russia, including: they’re supporting Russian employees who haven’t done anything wrong; they’re afraid that Russia will confiscate their assets if they pull out entirely; they’re manufacturing goods that are essential for innocent Russian consumers.

However, some are being criticized for stretching the definition of essential goods. PepsiCo, for example, still produces potato chips there, and last week made a deal to ship seed potatoes for chips from Scotland into Russia.

A business professor told the Wall Street Journal that companies who fudge the term “essential” are engaging in “window-washing” to try to burnish their reputations while holding on to Russian business: “Sanctions are a form of economic warfare. Companies deeming their cheeseburgers, shoes or equipment essential are ultimately undermining the premise of the sanctions.”

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