Six months after Russian invasion, many foreign companies stay silent on war

Six months after Russian invasion, many foreign companies stay silent on war
All of the companies pictured are winding down operations in Russia, but many have failed to name the war as the reason for their exit, perhaps hoping to return to the country on good terms later. / Image: Yale University.
By Theo Normanton in London August 27, 2022

Only 28% of foreign companies which operate in Russia have denounced the war in Ukraine, according to fresh data from The Moral Rating Agency.

It has now been six months since Russian troops entered Ukraine, and over a thousand international companies have curtailed their operations in Russia beyond the level required by sanctions, according to a data from Yale.

But many international corporations, particularly Chinese companies, have continued to operate in Russia as normal, or even increased their exposure. And the majority have failed to denounce Russia’s war with Ukraine.

Of the 200 largest companies globally, 122 operate in Russia. Only 28% of those companies have denounced the war unequivocally, while 35% have remained silent and 28% have issued “mealy-mouthed” statements justifying a reduction in business activities without mentioning the war, according to the Moral Rating Agency – an organisation which assigns “moral ratings” to corporations based on their responses to the invasion of Ukraine.

US technology company Dell, for example, described the war as a “great tragedy” and a “humanitarian disaster”, without attributing it to any one party or describing it as a war.

Mark Dixon, founder of the Moral Rating Agency, said: “We believe the main driver among those leaving Russia is to keep their options open in the future if there is a ceasefire. Companies know they will burn their bridges if they denounce Russia or Putin. They are acting commercially, not morally.”

Japan’s Mitsubishi provides an example of an international company which has remained silent on the war. Reports emerged on 25 August that the company intends to retain its stake in the Sakhalin-2 gas pipeline, suggesting that the company’s silence could be commercially beneficial.

British oil company Shell, meanwhile, dropped its $3.5bn, 27.5% interest in the Sakhalin-2 project due to the invasion.

Just four days after the start of the war in February, Shell said that it was “shocked by the loss of life in Ukraine, which we deplore, resulting from a senseless act of military aggression which threatens European security”.