One of the dangers of publishing a magazine that depends upon printers and the U.S. Postal Service is that the subject we're writing about could be over by the time readers see it. Nothing would make me happier than to find this column has been rendered moot by the time you're reading it, by positive news out of Eastern Europe.
It's difficult to add sage words to the millions that have been written or spoken since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. We have one news story which briefly recounts how a handful of food and beverage companies were reacting to the invasion, was the germ of an idea. Recalling a Ben & Jerry's news story from last July was the other half.
Food and beverage processors: Do you want to express your outrage at the occupation of Ukraine by Russia? Do you want to do something about it? Then stop selling your products in Russia. Close your factories there and lay off all your Russian employees.
Last summer, Ben & Jerry's stopped selling ice cream in the West Bank to protest Israel's growing settlements in Palestine. Recall that Ben & Jerry's was started by two Jewish-American guys, and although the company is no longer in their hands (it belongs to Unilever) they expressed their support of the action.
[An earlier version of this story asked Ben & Jerry's to stop selling ice cream in Russia ... which they did! ... way back in 1997; so never mind.]
I know Coca-Cola and Pepsi not only sell gallons of soft drinks there but have plants in Russia. Why not stop selling sodas there, shut those plants and lay off those Russian workers, letting them know in no uncertain terms why you did it.
That news story lists other food and beverage companies with operations in that region, mostly stories of how they're suspending production in Ukraine. That's a safe bet, for your company and even your employees in Ukraine, but it's ultimately punishing Ukrainians. ADM, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Cargill, Nestle, you all have operations in Russia. I'd love to know how many Russians depend on Western companies for their livelihoods. Close those plants, food processors, and let the people know it's because their country is run by an egomaniac who is killing innocent people.
The U.S. and most rational countries have condemned the invasion and imposed whatever sanctions they can on Russia. If the German government can shut off its critically needed supply of natural gas from Russia, which impacts all German citizens, can't you shut off their supply of beer? If the U.S. can restrict semiconductors, why can't you restrict sodas? If Britain can ban flights to and from Moscow, why not ban candy bars?
Most of the first reactions from the Western nations were aimed at hurting Vladimir Putin and other leaders and oligarchs. Then some of the sanctions were aimed at Russian trade. What food and beverage companies can do will hurt the Russian commoner – and this is no time to call me cruel – by cutting off some of their favorite things and even their jobs. If that doesn't make them revolt against their leader, nothing will.