Unilever and McDonald’s, two of the world’s biggest advertisers, have joined a growing wave of international businesses that have halted some or all of their activities in Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine.
Unilever, the UK-based consumer goods giant, is suspending all imports and exports of products into and out of Russia and halting “all media and advertising spend”, although it will continue to allow “the supply of everyday food and hygiene products made in Russia to people in the country”.
McDonald’s said it has decided to “temporarily close all of our restaurants” and pause all of its operations, which will affect “hundreds of local, Russian suppliers and partners who produce the food for our menu and support our brand”.
It is thought that will include a suspension of advertising, although the statement from McDonald’s did not explicitly mention it.
Alan Jope, the chief executive of Unilever, which is one of the world’s top three advertisers, said: “We continue to condemn the war in Ukraine as a brutal and senseless act by the Russian state.
“Our business operations in Ukraine have stopped and we are now fully focused on ensuring the safety of our Ukrainian employees and their families, including helping with their evacuation where necessary, and providing additional financial support. We have also committed to donate €5m of essential Unilever products to the humanitarian relief effort.
“We have suspended all imports and exports of our products into and out of Russia, and we will stop all media and advertising spend. We will not invest any further capital into the country nor will we profit from our presence in Russia.
“We will continue to supply our everyday essential food and hygiene products made in Russia to people in the country. We will keep this under close review. We join calls for an end to this war and hope that peace, human rights, and the international rule of law will prevail.”
Chris Kempczinski, chief executive of McDonald’s, said:“The conflict in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis in Europe has caused unspeakable suffering to innocent people. As a System, we join the world in condemning aggression and violence and praying for peace. Our number one priority from the start of this crisis has been – and will remain – our people.
“The company has provided immediate financial support to our team in Ukraine. We are continuing to pay full salaries for our Ukrainian employees and have donated $5 million to our Employee Assistance Fund, and continue to support relief efforts led by the International Red Cross in the region. We have been overwhelmed by the offers of support across the System and thank you for your generous contributions to date.”
He added: “In Russia, we employ 62,000 people who have poured their heart and soul into our McDonald’s brand to serve their communities. We work with hundreds of local, Russian suppliers and partners who produce the food for our menu and support our brand. And we serve millions of Russian customers each day who count on McDonald’s. In the thirty-plus years that McDonald’s has operated in Russia, we’ve become an essential part of the 850 communities in which we operate.
“At the same time, our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine. Years ago, when confronted with his own difficult decision, Fred Turner explained his approach quite simply: 'Do the right thing.' That philosophy is enshrined as one of our five guiding values, and there are countless examples over the years of McDonald’s Corporation living up to Fred’s simple ideal. Today, is also one of those days.
“Working closely in consultation with our chairman, Rick Hernandez, and the rest of McDonald’s board of directors over the last week, McDonald’s has decided to temporarily close all our restaurants in Russia and pause all operations in the market. We understand the impact this will have on our Russian colleagues and partners, which is why we are prepared to support all three legs of the stool in Ukraine and Russia. This includes salary continuation for all McDonald’s employees in Russia.”
Many other international companies are temporarily suspending activities in Russia. WPP, which has a major relationship with Unilever, announced on Friday it was shutting down operations in Russia in a permanent move.
(This article first appeared on CampaignLive.co.uk)