Global recruiter Hays has halted all business with Russia with immediate effect and Shell is shutting down its fuel business in the country, as businesses act to prevent reputational damage and signal their disapproval of Vladimir Putin’s actions.
The recruitment giant has closed its offices in Moscow and St Petersburg and will exit Russia, a company statement said, in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
Hays CEO Alistair Cox added: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly as a business. However, we cannot continue to maintain a presence in Russia, nor assist organisations there in any way, in light of the current situation.”
Shell, meanwhile, has announced plans to withdraw from Russian oil and gas and close all its service stations in the country, as the boss of the FTSE 100 company apologised for buying Russian crude oil last week.
The company said it would immediately stop buying Russian crude oil on the spot market and not renew term contracts. It will also change its crude oil supply chain to remove Russian supplies, but said this could take weeks to complete.
Shell stated that ending its businesses in Russia was a complex challenge, adding: “Changing this part of the energy system will require concerted action by governments, energy suppliers and customers, and a transition to other energy supplies will take much longer.”
Chief executive, Ben van Beurden, said: “We are acutely aware that our decision last week to purchase a cargo of Russian crude oil to be refined into products like petrol and diesel – despite being made with security of supplies at the forefront of our thinking – was not the right one and we are sorry.
Van Beurden added that revenue from the company’s remaining amounts of Russian oil would go to aid partners and humanitarian agencies that were “best placed to alleviate the terrible consequences that this war is having on the people of Ukraine”.
A week ago, Shell exited its joint ventures with the Russian state energy firm Gazprom.
Meanwhile, global food and drink chains and suppliers McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, KFC, Burger King and Starbucks have been criticised and may face consumer boycotts over their silence on the Ukraine invasion.
McDonald’s has 847 locations in Russia. Unlike other chains, most are directly owned and operated by the company, rather than franchisees making it theoretically easier to withdraw.
Kentucky based Yum! Brands, has more than 1,000 KFC and 50 Pizza Hut outlets in Russia but has only said it was monitoring the situation closely. Starbucks’ boss Kevin Johnson has strongly criticised Putin’s attack on Ukraine but the company’s sites in Russia remain in operation. Many are run by the Kuwait-based Alshaya Group.
Hotel chains such as Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt, and food producers Unilever and Mondelez are among other companies with large complex interests in Russia.
Some of the companies have been in receipt of a letter from Thomas DiNapoli, comptroller of the New York state common retirement fund, urging them to review their businesses in Russia because they faced “significant and growing legal, compliance, operational, human rights and personnel, and reputational risks”.
Kathleen Brooks, director at Minerva Analysis, told the BBC that McDonald’s and Coca Cola, which had bottling plants in the country, were “very complicated businesses”, which would not make it easy to make a decision to leave Russia quickly.
“However, the firms faced a reputation risk could really hit their share prices so they may have no choice going forward.”
Reputational risk also needed to be balanced with ethical judgments about the welfare of people, Dr Ian Peters, director of the Institute for Business Ethics told the BBC. He cited companies’ duty of care towards employees in Russia and whether it was fair to deprive Russian citizens of basic goods.”