Spotlight on the shame of companies that stay with Russia

US professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is putting public pressure on Western companies that maintain operations in Russia despite its war on neighboring Ukraine.

The Yale University management and leadership expert has them on a publicly posted list for consumers and investors around the world to see, the idea being that the shame will cause companies to change course and to leave Russia.

Sonnenfeld believes that the harder everyday life is for Russian citizens, the more they will be motivated to turn against President Vladimir Putin.

In an interview, he told AFP that he spoke out because there is “no common ground” possible with Moscow regarding its invasion.

Why did you start the list?

Sonnenfeld: “There were about a dozen companies that decided to sever ties with Russia after the invasion of Ukraine. These are not the companies that usually act first on social or human rights issues. Among them were oil companies, professional services firms and law firms, and tech giants.

“But there was also a flood of suitors – companies that had smart public relations putting out smokescreens of misleading messages. So I put together a small team that has no particular ideology or involvement with these companies and can evaluate them objectively.

“It was originally just a list showing those who did something and those who didn’t, but we realized that wasn’t enough. Now there are five categories, from one complete withdrawal to people who dig.”

Is it a valid argument to stay for the good of employees or citizens in Russia?

“It’s disgusting that any of these companies (which remain in Russia) attempt humanitarian or paternalistic employer arguments. It’s just because of their own greed. They should be called out and shamed for it.”

The companies that remain “undermine the whole purpose of economic sanctions and these voluntary trade blockages. Which is not to comfort the Russian population and allow them to continue to be complacent. It’s to make her uncomfortable; it is to increase the feeling of stress in Russian society so that they question their leadership.

“There are people who kindly say ‘the general Russian population leaked the news’. Well, all Russians know that too… They should question the truth of what they are being told, and s they don’t, they are willfully ignorant.

“When ceasefires are openly violated by the Russians or when children’s hospitals are bombed, there is no common ground here.

“We hear every day from companies that are furious (to be on the list). They will send us examples of threats they receive from international hacker groups like Anonymous. Well, that’s not our problem. It’s a choice they’ve made. And if there’s any backlash from the community, they should change their stance.”

Russia news

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