Boycott Subway, Nestle calls rev up; giants top list of ‘hall of shame’ companies that won’t drop Russia

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Twitter is on fire with calls to boycott companies such as Subway and Nestle for continuing to operate in Russia as hundreds of Western businesses and corporations have withdrawn from the country in protest of the invasion of Ukraine, despite a major ding to their sales and profits.

Yale business professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and his colleague Steven Tian have labeled these companies as part of the “hall of shame,” according to the Los Angeles Times. On that list are a number of companies that are allegedly “digging in, defying demands for exit or reduction of activities.” Subway made that particular list. Nestle did not but is still trending out there with a massive demand to boycott them as well.

A quote from Sonnenfeld is telling and embodies the sentiment from the left on why these companies are problematic for them: “These brands … thought they were representing Western values and a spirit of freedom and global harmony. They were blind to the signals because of perestroika ideology and the religion of the free market.”

Along with Subway and Nestle, companies such as Reebok, Papa Johns, Bacardi, LG, Asus, Natura, Avon, and Koch Industries are being slammed for continuing to do business in Russia. More than 400 companies have boycotted the country so far, according to Newsweek. Anonymous is also now targeting Nestle for not pulling out of Russia but not everyone agrees with boycotting the companies.

“We will not walk away from our employees there or hand over these manufacturing facilities to the Russian government so it can operate and benefit from them,” Dave Robertson, president and chief operating officer of Koch Industries said Wednesday in a statement. “Doing so would only put our employees there at greater risk and do more harm than good.”

Subway has approximately 450 restaurants in Russia, “all independently owned and operated by local franchisees.”

“We don’t directly control these independent franchisees and their restaurants, and have limited insight into their day-to-day operations,” restaurant management said in a statement.

Instead, Subway said it will “redirect any profits from operations in Russia to humanitarian efforts supporting Ukrainians who have been affected by the war.” The sandwich chain is also working with its franchisees across Europe to provide meals to refugees.

Subway, like many fast-food chains, is a franchise. Therefore, it is not as simple as closing down operations per company diktat. As the company explained in a statement released last week, Subway stands with Ukraine but is unable to pause business in Russia.

Nestle has halted advertisements in Russia. The company has also stopped shipping non-essential items like espresso coffee and mineral water to Russia but has continued to provide more essential items like baby food, according to Bloomberg.

On Thursday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal tweeted that he had spoken with Nestle CEO Mark Schneider “about the side effect of staying in [the] Russian market.”

“Unfortunately,” Shmyhal noted, “he shows no understanding. Paying taxes to the budget of a terrorist country means killing defenseless children & mothers. Hope that Nestle will change its mind soon.”

Somehow, this has been interpreted on social media to mean that Nestle is single-handedly financing the war in Ukraine.

On Thursday, Roman Hryshchuk, who is a member of the Ukrainian parliament, tweeted, “Putin is a war criminal,” Russia is a terrorist state,” and “Doing business in Russia means paying taxes in Russia.”

He also said that “Paying taxes in Russia means financing terror and war crimes in Ukraine,” and asserted that “Companies like Nestle are financing the war.”

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, took aim at the company in a scathing tweet on Friday.

“By refusing to stop business activities in Russia, @Nestle allows Russia’s war of aggression in Europe to continue. Long-term damage to the company’s reputation is proportionate to the scale of Russian war crimes in Ukraine (enormous). Not too late to change your mind, Nestle,” he wrote.

Stratcom Centre UA, a strategic communications company under the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, jumped into the fray as well, noting, “Nestlé continues paying taxes to the budget of a terrorist state, financing indiscriminate attacks on Ukrainian civilians.”

Other users on Twitter used wartime propaganda to hit Nestle as well.

Schnieder posted a statement via Twitter on March 2 regarding the conflict in Ukraine and pledged to match employee donations to the International Federation of Red Cross Societies (IFRC) up to $1 million.

The company is also providing food and supplies to Ukraine.

“As a food company and employer, we recognize that we also have a responsibility toward our more than 7,000 employees in Russia — most of whom are locals,” the statement said. “We will continue to do our utmost to ensure a reliable supply of safe and essential food products for the local people.”

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