Cornetto maker Unilever defends its choice to stay in Russia
Unilever said that leaving was “not straightforward” because the Russian government would take over its business if it left.
It happens after a campaign group said the company adds $579 million to the Russian economy every year.
The Moral Rating Agency said that the company helped Russia invade.
“Unilever needs to stop hiding behind its balance sheet and excuses and face the fact that selling an ice cream can help Putin buy a bullet,” said the company’s founder, Mark Dixon.
After Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine last year, many Western companies like Apple and Levi’s left the country, both because it was the right thing to do and because sanctions made it hard to do business there.
Some companies, like the US consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble, still do business there, even though they say they are doing less there.
Shell is buying gas from Russia Even though Pernod Ricard said it would stop, it has started sending drinks to Russia again.
Unilever, which sells things like Marmite and PG Tips in the UK, said it had stopped sending and receiving goods to and from Russia and had stopped advertising in that country.
It also says that it only sells “essential” goods in the country, like food and hygiene products that people use every day.
But the Moral Rating Agency (MRA) said that Unilever’s factories in Russia were still making and selling most of the company’s original products in Russia.
It said that its calculations took into account how much Unilever paid into the Russian treasury every year, as well as how much it spent on local suppliers, workers, and other costs like rent and technology.
“The MRA calculation starts with Unilever’s admission in its 2022 Annual Report that its Russian business makes up 1.4% of turnover,” the group said.
Unilever told the BBC, “We understand why people want Unilever to leave Russia. Our last comment was made in February.
“We also want to make it clear that we are not trying to protect or run our business in Russia. But it’s not easy for companies like Unilever to leave the country because they have a big real presence there.
The company, which has about 3,000 employees in Russia, said that if it gave up its names there, “they would be taken over by the Russian government and then run by the Russian government.”
The consumer goods giant said it hadn’t been able to find a way to sell the business that “keeps our people safe and doesn’t give the Russian government more money.”
It said that there were no “desirable” choices, but that running the business with “strict constraints” was the best thing to do given the situation.
This week, Shell was criticized for still trading in Russian gas after promising to leave the Russian energy market a year ago.
The oil giant said that the trades were the result of “long-term contractual commitments” and did not break any laws or penalties.