Unilever Taken to Task by Zelensky for Refusing to Pull Out of Russian Business Operations   - The Jewish Voice
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Unilever Taken to Task by Zelensky for Refusing to Pull Out of Russian Business Operations  

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Unilever Taken to Task by Zelensky for Refusing to Pull Out of Russian Business Operations

Edited by: TJVNews.com

As war continues to rage on Ukraine and Russian attacks on civilians continue unabated, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is now focusing on international companies that continue to operate in Russia, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

When addressing the US Congress on Wednesday, Zelensky asked lawmakers to encourage companies based in the US to cease all business operations in Russia. He also called on the U.S. to ban the import of all Russian goods, according to the WSH report.

“If you have companies in your districts who financed the Russian military machine…You should put pressure,” he said. “I am asking to make sure that the Russians do not receive a single penny that they use to destroy people in Ukraine.”

Many companies based in the US and Europe has put the brake on their operations in Russia due to their attack on Ukraine as well as coming to the realization that the sanctions imposed on Russia would lead to logistical challenges.

While the departure by companies from Russia has increased the pressure for the government to put an end to the way, there are other companies that say that they are unable to break business ties with the “Big Bear” because of joint venture or franchise agreements, as was reported by the WSJ.

The report also indicated that companies are being warned or even threatened by prosecutors in Russia that if they decide to close up shop, that their assets can be seized. They were also told that their employees could be arrested.

On Tuesday, Zelensky named a list of companies that are still conducting business in Russia and put the squeeze on them to leave on a permanent basis.

Specifically, the Ukrainian leader named “Nestlé SA, Mondelez International Inc. and Unilever PLC, among “other giants of the food industry,” as well as financial firms Raiffeisen Bank International AG of Austria and French lender Société Générale SA, “ according to the WSJ report.

The WSJ reported that other companies named by Zelensky included South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Co., pharmaceutical companies Sanofi SA and Johnson & Johnson, along with chemicals giant BASF SE and Bayer AG, the agricultural and drugs supplier.

While reports have circulated that reveal Unilever had previously said that they had suspended advertising in Russia as well as imports and exports of all but essential food and other related products, the WSJ report indicated that Unilever is “continuing local production of some products to sell in Russia.”

In terms of Unilever’s reluctance to cease all its operations in Russia, questions of business ethics have arisen.

Unilever is the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and last year the company made a controversial decision to boycott the liberated lands of Judea and Samaria in the heartland of Israel. The ice cream maker claimed their boycott was based on the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank which has a large Palestinian population.

The reality is that Ben & Jerry’s plants in Judea and Samaria hire many Palestinians, leading seasoned political observers to conclude that Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever are “cherry picking” the kind of political causes that they champion.

Others have noted that a strong anti-Israel bias runs through the ranks at Ben & Jerry’s and at Unilever as well. Others have said that what has driven Ben & Jerry’s is a seething anti-Semitism that is lurking under the surface.

According to a November 2021 report in the New York Post Unilever is allowing Ben & Jerry’s “to set policy that puts Unilever’s broader business at risk and that the company isn’t acknowledging the financial risks of wading into such a thorny social issue.”

The Post report indicated that Michael Ashner, an investor has taken a stake in Unilever has blamed the boycott in Israel for a sharp drop in the company’s share price.

The report also said that Ashner has “launched the Coalition to Hold Unilever Accountable and says he’s meeting with lawmakers and financiers to bring visibility to what he says is Unilever’s abdication of responsibility when it comes to managing Ben & Jerry’s.”

Speaking to the Post, Ashner said: “Unilever is knowingly misleading its shareholders by failing to disclose in its regulatory filings the material risks to its business and valuation.”

Based on his calculations, Ashner added: “The proposed termination of sales of its ice cream in the West Bank and East Jerusalem of Israel has, among other things, directly resulted in the divestment and proposed divestment of more than $325 million of Unilever shares by a number of states, as well as proposed boycotts of Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever products.”

Others have said that the unmitigated hypocrisy of Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s is exceptionally difficult to reconcile.

Said one former owner of a Ben & Jerry’s store in the United States: “The fact that Unilever is allowing Ben & Jerry’s to boycott Judea and Samaria in Israel, which provides jobs to Palestinians, but is not at all moved at the human devastation that is being wrought in Ukraine by Russia is simply unfathomable.”

The owner added, “Israel did not invade a sovereign nation and start murdering civilians in air raids and with tank fire. Israel works with the Palestinian Authority on public safety issues and all issues. To say that business cannot be conducted in Judea and Samaria but can be conducted in Russia is not only totally illogical, but it also reveals Unilever’s tendentious policy on whether Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state.”

The WSJ reported that Unilever did not respond to their inquiries about their decision to continue to conduct business in Russia.

In a related development, New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Thursday announced a new Executive Order to prohibit state agencies and authorities from contracting with entities that continue to do business in Russia.

The announcement builds on Governor Hochul’s ongoing efforts to support Ukraine. In February, Governor Hochul ordered all state agencies and authorities to divest public funds from Russia and stop doing business with Russian companies. In early March, Governor Hochul announced actions to strengthen the Department of Financial Services’ (DFS) enforcement of sanctions against Russia, including the expedited procurement of additional blockchain analytics technology.

On Thursday, Governor Hochul said: “What we’re watching around the world is the specter of the fighting going on in Ukraine, the painful images of seeing innocent civilians, losing their lives, attacks on schools and hospitals, and it’s continuing to decline. President Biden yesterday announced another $800 million of support for security, which is important. He’s doing what he can on that front, but also it’s incumbent upon all of us as New Yorkers to say, how can we help our brothers and sisters who are hurting? And knowing New Yorkers as well as I do, I’m never disappointed in how they respond to crises when there is a call for help.”

She added that:  “We’re going to be announcing an executive order concerning our intentions of strengthening our sanctions against Russia as well and we’re going to have additional blockchain analytics technology to make sure that we’re being very vigilant about what they do. We’re now going to prohibit any state agencies and authorities from contracting with any entities that are still doing business in Russia. So, this is not just directly with Russian companies, it is with American companies; companies that are continuing to do business in Russia in light of what’s happening. So that is the message that we’re delivering to our state agencies and authorities today. And that is to cease business, to not have no more future contracts with those entities.” (Additional reporting by: Fern Sidman)



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