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Russia-Ukraine conflict: A running list of brands taking action

Russia-Ukraine conflict: A running list of brands taking action

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The world has been on edge over the past week, watching Russia invade Ukraine last week. Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed this was a "special military operation" meant to "demilitarise and denazify Ukraine", The Wall Street Journal reported. Both countries came together yesterday for talks on a potential cease-fire but WSJ reported that it ended with a no-deal. This came as Russia "intensified its assault" and continued its efforts to seize Kyiv.

Since the invasion, Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been trying to garner support from world leaders while the country's vice PM and minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, has been actively calling on renowned companies on Twitter to restrict their services in Russia. These included Viber, PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, Netflix, Apple, Tesla, as well as major crypto exchanges. 

Meanwhile, said yesterday that it will offer free, short-term housing to up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine. These stays will be funded by Airbnb, Inc., donors to the Refugee Fund, and the generosity of Hosts through According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2022, businesses remain the most trusted institution (61%) while trust has dipped again for government (52%) and the media (50%). CEOs are also expected to be the face of change, with 81% of respondents saying they should be personally visible when discussing public policy with external stakeholders or work their company has done to benefit society. Meanwhile, 60% also expect the CEO to speak publicly about controversial social and political issues they care about when considering a job.

Over the past few days, companies and even sporting organisations have taken action against Russia as a result of the recent invasion. Here is a list of the brands involved which will be updated when there are new developments.

Accenture: Accenture is discontinuing its business in Russia, making it the first company with advertising capabilities to do so. The company said it stands with the people of Ukraine and the governments, companies and individuals around the world calling for the immediate end to the "unlawful and horrific attack on the people of Ukraine and their freedom".

AerCap Holdings: Irish aircraft leasing company AerCap will stop trading with Russian airlines and is calling for hundreds of its jets to be returned. According to Bloomberg Quint, AerCap said it will "comply with broad measures against Moscow" that the European Union, US, and other countries have imposed. The company has more than 150 planes in Russia. The company's shares traded down 13% at 10 am in New York on 28 February, Bloomberg Quint reported. Recent sanctions by EU on Russia banned the supply of "all goods and technology" linked to aircraft.

Alphabet: Alphabet's Google banned RT and other channels from monetising their ads on the platform's websites, apps, and YouTube videos. It is also prohibiting access to RT and other channels in Ukraine. "We’re pausing a number of channels’ ability to monetize on YouTube, including several Russian channels affiliated with recent sanctions. We will be significantly limiting recommendations to these channels. And in response to a government request, we’ve restricted access to RT and a number of other channels in Ukraine. We will continue to monitor new developments and may take further actions," its spokesperson said.

Airbnb: said yesterday that it will offer free, short-term housing to up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine. These stays will be funded by Airbnb, Inc., donors to the Refugee Fund, and the generosity of Hosts through While is committing to facilitate short-term housing for up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine, it will work closely with governments to best support the specific needs in each country, including by providing longer-term stays.

Apple: Apple has halted sales of its products through the Apple Store in Russia. All products listed online are now unavailable. The company has also removed RT and Sputnik from its App Store globally except for Russia.

BP: BP is divesting its 19.75% stake in Rosneft, a Russian state-oil company. The British oil and gas company has held the stake since 2013. Additionally, BP CEO Bernard Looney is also resigning from Rosneft's board with immediate effect. The other Rosneft director nominated by BP, former BP group chief executive Bob Dudley, is also resigning from the board. BP chair Helge Lund said Russia's attack on Ukraine is "an act of aggression which is having tragic consequences across the region". BP has operated in Russia for more than 30 years but this military action represents "a fundamental change", Lund said. "We can no longer support BP representatives holding a role on the Rosneft board. The Rosneft holding is no longer aligned with BP’s business and strategy and it is now the board’s decision to exit BP’s shareholding in Rosneft. The BP board believes these decisions are in the best long-term interests of all our shareholders," Lund said.

Daimler Truck: Daimler Truck suspended its business activities in Russia effectively immediately. This included its cooperation with Russian truck maker Kamaz, Reuters said. Citing an internal memo, Reuters reported that Daimler and Kamaz will no longer jointly build trucks, and components will no longer be supplied to Kamaz.

Emplifi: Emplifi is supporting NGOs providing aid to Ukraine, by providing free access to its social marketing cloud. The initiative is intended to enable humanitarian organizations to better communicate with their audience and make it faster and easier to collaborate, plan, create and publish critical social media content.

F1: Formula 1 cancelled its Russian Grand Prix last week, saying that it is "impossible" to hold the event in the current circumstances. "The FIA Formula 1 World Championship visits countries all over the world with a positive vision to unite people, bringing nations together. We are watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation," the organisation said. As of 3 March, F1 terminated its contract with the Russian Grand Prix and no races will be held in the country moving forward.

GM: Automotive manufacturer GM is suspending all vehicle exports to Russia until further notice, the company said yesterday. GM described the loss of life to be "a tragedy" and its overriding concern is for the safety of people in the region, Reuters reported. According to Reuters, GM does not have plants in Russia and sells approximately 3,000 vehicles annually in the country.

Haas F1 team: The F1 team has removed Russian potash producer Uralkali's branding from its car during the final day of testing last Friday and ran it in an all-white livery. According to Reuters, Haas cars previously featured a Russian flag livery with Uralkali stickers since last season. This was part of a title sponsorship deal that also saw the son of Dmitry Mazepin, Uralkali's owner, signed to a race seat.

Hermès: French luxury house, Hermès, which is best known for its Birkin handbags, has suspended its business in Russia, becoming the first major luxury brand to close its Russian stores amid the conflict in Ukraine, said WSJ. While Hermès did not give a specific rationale for its decision, it said in a statement that it was "deeply concerned by the situation in Europe". 

LEGO Foundation: The LEGO Foundation is donating about US$16.5 million to partners including UNICEF, Save the Children, and Danish Red Cross to support Ukranian children and families. The donation will provide humanitarian aid as well as protection and education for children.

IKEA: IKEA is suspending its operations in Russia and Belarus, impacting about 15,000 employees, 17 stores, and three production sites. According to Channel NewsAsia, IKEA said the war has already had a huge human impact and it also leading to “serious disruptions to supply chain and trading conditions”.

IPG: CEO Philippe Krakowsky said after the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the agency network has been focusing on doing whatever it can to assist its associates there. Though IPG's Ukrainian agencies were all affiliates, Krakowsky said it felt a sense of responsibility to do whatever possible on behalf of people whose lives are being upended and threatened.

While its Russian operations have been suspended, IPG has been wrestling with how to reconcile with the fact that the decision meant abandoning approximately 200 colleagues there. As a result, IPG will be leaving its Russian teams with enough capital on their balance sheet to pay their people for a minimum of six months. 

Manchester United: Manchester United has cancelled Aeroflot's sponsorship rights. "In light of events in Ukraine, we have withdrawn Aeroflot’s sponsorship rights. We share the concerns of our fans around the world and extend our sympathies to those affected," the football club said. According to the BBC, Aeroflot has been United's official carrier since 2013 and the deal would have run until 2023.

Mastercard: Following Mastercard's announcement on 5 March 2022, cards issued by Russian banks will no longer be supported by the Mastercard network regardless of where they’re used - inside or outside of Russia. At the same time, any Mastercard issued outside of the country will not work at Russian merchants or ATMs. According to Mastercard, this decision was not made lightly, especially since having had operations in Russia for more than 25 years. However, this move was made as it valued the safety and well-being of its employees and the people of Ukraine. 

"When it is appropriate, and if it is permissible under the law, we will use their passion and creativity to work to restore operations," said Mastercard in a press statement. 

McDonald's: The fast-food restaurant chain announced that it will be shutting down its operations in Russia this week. While the move is expected to cost McDonald's US$50 million a month, or about five to six cents per share, it will continue to provide salaries for all affected employees. Additionally, McDonald's donated US$5 million to its Employee Assistance Fund to provide financial support to its employees in Ukraine.

Meta: Meta has prohibited ads from Russian state media and is demonetising the accounts of Russian state media. It will also continue to apply labels to additional Russian state media. As of 27 February, Meta has also restricted access to several accounts in Ukraine, including those belonging to some Russian state media organisations. It is also reviewing other government requests to restrict Russian state-controlled media. To reduce the spread of misinformation, Meta is also taking steps such as removing content that violates its policies and working with third-party fact-checkers in the region to debunk false claims, expanding its third-party fact-checking capacity in Russian and Ukrainian languages across the region.

Microsoft: The tech giant is banning all ads from RT and Sputnik across its ad network and will not place any ads from its network on those sites. Microsoft will also not display any state-sponsored RT and Sputnik content. Additionally, it is removing RT news apps from its Windows app store and further de-rank these sites' search results on Bing so that it will only return RT and Sputnik links when a user clearly intends to navigate to those pages. Microsoft is also doubling down on cyberattacks against Ukraine. Several hours before the launch of missiles or movement of tanks on February 24, Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center detected a new round of offensive and destructive cyberattacks directed against Ukraine’s digital infrastructure. It immediately advised the Ukrainian government about the situation, including its identification of the use of a new malware package. Microsoft will also continue to share appropriate information with NATO officials in Europe and American officials in Washington.

Netflix: Netflix will not carry 20 Russian free-to-air propaganda channels, including Channel One, NTV, and Spa, Variety reported. Last year, Russian regulator Roskomnadzor instructed Netflix to register for its audiovisual services because the platform had reached over 100,000 subscribers. As a result, Netflix is required as part of the Vitrina TV law, to air 20 "must-carry" free-to-air Russian news, sports, and entertainment TV channels, Variety explained. 

Nike: Nike is temporarily shutting its stores in Russia due to the “increasing challenges of managing its business”, The Wall Street Journal reported. Nike will continue to pay its employees. According to the company’s website, there are approximately 116 Nike stores in the country. The sneaker brand said it is “deeply troubled by the devastating crisis in Ukraine”, WSJ reported.

P&G: P&G has suspended all media, advertising, and promotional activity in Russia and has discontinued all new capital investments. P&G’s president and CEO Jon Moeller told employees in a memo that it is significantly reducing its product portfolio to focus on basic health, hygiene, and personal care items needed by the Russian families who are dependent on them. "As we proceed with the reduced scale of our Russian operations, we will continue to adjust as necessary," Moeller said. P&G's Russian operations manufacture products for Tide, Pampers, and Gillette. 

It has also rolled out a multi-million-dollar relief package of cash contributions and P&G products, including diapers, feminine care and other essentials. These are being sent to refugee families through the International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies and relief organisations across Central and Eastern Europe.

Publicis Groupe: Publicis Groupe is stopping its business and investments in Russia by ceding the ownership of its agencies to local management, effective immediately. The Groupe is handing over control of its Russian operations to Sergey Koptev, founding chairman of Publicis in Russia, with the clear contractual condition of ensuring a future for employees there. Arthur Sadoun, CEO and chairman of Publicis Groupe, said since the start of the invasion, the agency network has been working on exiting Russia as it strongly condemns the unilateral aggression against Ukraine.

Rakuten: Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani has donated US$8.6k to the Ukraine government which will go toward humanitarian activists to help those in Ukraine who are victims of the invasion. Rakuten Group has staff working in Ukraine for its free-call app service, Viber, and has a business base in the Odessa region of southern Ukraine.

Reddit: Reddit has quarantined the subreddit r/Russia for misinformation. As a result, it will not show up in searches and recommendations. It will also not show up in feeds where users have not specifically included them.

Shell: Shell is ending its joint ventures with Russian state-owned energy firm Gazprom and related entities. This includes its 27.5% stake in the Sakhalin-II liquefied natural gas facility, its 50% stake in the Salym Petroleum Development and the Gydan energy venture. Shell also intends to end its involvement in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. “We are shocked by the loss of life in Ukraine, which we deplore, resulting from a senseless act of military aggression which threatens European security,” said Shell’s CEO, Ben van Beurden. According to van Beurden, its decision to exit is one Shell takes with conviction and it cannot, and will not, stand by. At the end of 2021, Shell had around US$3 billion in non-current assets in these ventures in Russia. It expects that the decision to start the process of exiting joint ventures with Gazprom and related entities to impact the book value of Shell's Russia assets and lead to impairments.

Snap: Snap has halted advertising in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus in response to sanctions. It has also halted advertising sales to all Russian and Belarusian entities and are complying with all sanctions targeting Russian businesses and individuals. Snap added that it does not accept revenue from Russian state-owned entities. "We stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian team members and the people of Ukraine who are fighting for their lives and for their freedom," the company said. It does not have an office in Russia.

SpaceX: Elon Musk recently activated SpaceX's Starlink satellite broadband service in Ukraine after Fedorov's plea request on Twitter. "While you try to colonise Mars - Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space - Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations," Ukraine's minister of digital transformation tweeted to the business magnate. In less than half a day, Musk responded to the tweet saying that the Starlink service is active in Ukraine, with more terminals en route. Starlink is a constellation of over 2,000 satellites that aims to provide satellite Internet access coverage to most of the Earth.

The Walt Disney Company: Disney is pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia, including the upcoming Turning Red from Pixar. "We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation," its spokesperson said. In the meantime, given the scale of the emerging refugee crisis, Disney is working with its NGO partners to provide urgent aid and other humanitarian assistance to refugees.

Twitter: Twitter has blocked access to its services in Russia and paused ads in Ukraine and Russia to ensure critical public safety information is elevated and ads don't detract from it. According to Twitter, it is aware that the platform is being restricted for some people in Russia and is working to keep its service safe and accessible. "Twitter has not restricted access or registration to our service," the company said.

Union of European Football Associations (UEFA): UEFA has ended its partnership with Gazprom across all competitions. The decision is effective immediately and covers all existing agreements including the UEFA Champions League, UEFA national team competitions and UEFA EURO 2024. According to Reuters, the sponsorship deal is reportedly worth about US$44 million per season and has been in place since 2012. The Union of European Football Associations is the governing body of European football and the umbrella organisation for 55 national associations.

Visa: Following its announcement on 5 March, Visa has suspended its Russia operations. Currently, all transactions initiated with Visa cards issued in Russia will no longer work outside the country and any Visa cards issued by financial institutions outside of Russia will no longer work within the Russian Federation. 

“We are compelled to act following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the unacceptable events that we have witnessed,” said Al Kelly, chairman and CEO of Visa. “We regret the impact this will have on our valued colleagues, and on the clients, partners, merchants and cardholders we serve in Russia. This war and the ongoing threat to peace and stability demand we respond in line with our values.”

Volvo Cars: Volvo Cars has stopped shipment to Russia until further notice. According to Reuters, the decision was made due to "potential risks associated with trading material in Russia. This includes EU and US-imposed sanctions. Reuters added that the automotive manufacturer sold about 9,000 cars in Russia last year.

WPP: Earlier this month, WPP discontinued its operations in Russia as a show of support for Ukraine and the international community in condemning the Russian invasion. According to WPP, the invasion has "created a humanitarian crisis in the heart of Europe" and its ongoing presence in Russia would be "inconsistent with its values as a company". The network had nearly 1,400 employees in Russia and WPP thanked them for their commitment to the company and their clients. "We deeply regret the impact of this decision on our Russian colleagues. We will provide support to them and work closely with our clients and partners as we discontinue our activities in the country," WPP said.

At the same time, WPP also partnered with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to run an emergency fundraising appeal to help people forced to flee their homes in search of safety in other parts of Ukraine or neighbouring countries. It is also match-funding all donations by WPP employees. 

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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