McDonald’s, Coca-Cola Pepsi, Starbucks and Unilever have decided to halt operations in Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
As calls for action from the public and politicians, the burger giant on Tuesday evening (8 March) announced its attention to close 850 restaurants in Russia and pause all operations in the country. It is thought about 62,000 jobs will be affected but McDonald’s said it would ensure salaries for all employees in Russia would still be paid while its charitable arm would still operate in the country.
Chris Kempczinski, the chief executive of McDonald’s, told staff and franchisees that the company’s values meant it could not ignore “the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine”. He said the situation was “extraordinarily challenging for a global brand like ours”, because it was partnered with hundreds of local suppliers and partners that produced and distributed its food. “We understand the impact this will have on our Russian colleagues and partners,” he said.
Starbucks said its cafes, run by a licensee, would close temporarily, while it would stop shipping its products. Its partner in Russia, the Kuwait-based Alshaya Group, which operates at least 100 Starbucks cafes, would continue to support its nearly 2,000 staff in Russia “who depend on Starbucks for their livelihood”.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi made their announcements following McDonald’s. Coca-Cola said it would suspend all operations in Russia. Pepsi signalled it would suspend the sale of its main brands, halt capital investments and stop all advertising. It added it would support its thousands of supply chain workers in Russia.
Unilever said that although it was stopping exports and imports, it would continue to supply its everyday essential food and hygiene products made in Russia to people in the country, but would not take any profit from its presence there.
Attention had been drawn to the companies’ silence on the Ukraine invasion over recent days with online calls for boycotts, but business experts had pointed out the complexities of withdrawing from Russia for the firms.
On Sunday, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, had told US media that “all western companies must withdraw from Russia” on humanitarian grounds. “We were upset to hear companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s remain in Russia and continue providing their products,” he said.
Yesterday, Hays and Shell were among the larger firms announcing a withdrawal from Russia.