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Yale professor releases list of companies staying in Russia as pressure mounts on Western companies

Major companies including McDonald’s, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are coming under fire as they continue to refuse to take a stand against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Rachel Sharp
Tuesday 08 March 2022 14:44 GMT
McDonald’s is coming under mounting pressure over its refusal to pull operations out of Russia
McDonald’s is coming under mounting pressure over its refusal to pull operations out of Russia (Getty Images)

A Yale University professor has released a list of major companies who continue to operate in Russia as pressure mounts on Western firms to take a stand against the invasion of Ukraine.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and his research team at the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute began publishing a spreadsheet of companies that have withdrawn from Russia - as well as those that are staying put - following President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of war back on 24 February.

Since then, the list has been updated daily, with around 250 companies pulling their business out of the country over the last 13 days.

The researchers said that several companies that were initially on the “remain in Russia with significant exposure” list have since bowed to pressure and also halted operations in the country.

But, almost two weeks into the attack, several major global corporations including McDonald’s, Starbucks, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have stayed silent around Mr Putin’s attack and refused to cut ties with Russia.

Mr Sonnenfeld told The Washington Post that such companies are misguided if they think they are helping their Russian employees by staying put.

He said that there is no “win-win solution” if they remain, whereas causing the Russian economy to collapse could help to prevent the situation escalating to “open warfare” in the country.

“This is one step away from open warfare. This is a last-ditch effort,” he said.

“You’re helping those workers by not having [the West] dropping bombs and shooting them.”

Among the companies that have come under fire for staying put, Mr Sonnenfeld said that McDonald’s in particular was the “screaming anomaly that’s bewildering to all its peers” because, while some might argue that they are at the mercy of franchise deals, the fast food chain controls more than 85 per cent of its restaurants in Russia.

McDonald’s is coming under growing pressure from lawmakers and consumers to pull out of Russia as irt continues to keep its stores open and has not spoken out to condemn Mr Putin.

The hashtag #BoycottMcDonalds was trending on Twitter over the weekend as customers vowed to shun its products so long as it continues to do business with Russia.

According to the company’s website, Russia accounts for around 9 per cent of its total revenues.

McDonald’s did not return a request for comment from The Independent.

Calls have also been mounting for a boycott of other major global firms including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, with #BoycottCocaCola and #BoycottPepsi also circulating online.

New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli sent a letter to several major companies including McDonald’s and PepsiCo on Friday calling on them to halt operations in Russia.

He warned the companies that they face “significant and growing legal, compliance, operational, human rights and personnel, and reputational risks” by continuing to do business in the country.

A boycott from them would play a major role in “condemning Russia’s role in fundamentally undermining the international order”, he wrote, according to Reuters.

The letter was also sent to other major businesses including beauty giants Estee Lauder Cosmetics and Coty, confectionery giant Mondelez and FMCG company Kimberly-Clark.

Estee Lauder finally announced on Monday that it was closing all company-owned stores in Russia and was halting shipments of its products to the country in response to criticism.

Meanwhile, three Ukrainian supermarket chains announced they were removing Coca-Cola products from their store shelves while the company continues to do business in the country.

Ukrainian supermarket chain Novus said on Friday that it would stop selling Coca-Cola products – including Coca-Cola, Fanta, Schweppes and BonAqua mineral water – slamming the company as “shameless” for continuing to “work for the invaders in full strength”.

Supermarket chains Fozzy Group and Varus also joined in the boycott.

The Independent has reached out to The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo for comment.

The deafening silence from the major firms comes as hundreds of other big corporations have halted operations in Russia.

Tech giants Apple and Netflix ceased all services, luxury brands Prada and Chanel shuttered stores, oil giant Shell said it would stop buying Russian oil and gas and shuttered gas stations, and online platforms Google and Microsoft limited access to Russia’s state-run propaganda.

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