The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Stop buying from these companies. They’re funding Putin’s war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a virtual speech before Congress on March 16. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)
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In his gut-wrenching address to Congress, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked the United States for more — and more he will get.

U.S. leaders across the spectrum saluted Zelensky after he spoke to them Wednesday from Kyiv in his olive-drab T-shirt — part Winston Churchill and part Che Guevara. For all the cheap politics of the moment (Republicans reflexively blaming President Biden and refusing to applaud when Zelensky thanked Biden), Washington is uncommonly unified in purpose. Neither lawmakers nor the administration support a U.S.-led no-fly zone or any other troop commitment, and congressional hawks are successfully pushing Biden toward giving Ukraine whatever weaponry it desires, likely including aircraft.

But Zelensky made another ask on Wednesday morning, and it’s something all Americans can help with. We can stop buying the products of businesses that continue to fund Vladimir Putin’s war machine, even after its full horrors — indiscriminately targeting civilians, murdering children — are obvious to the world.

“All American companies must leave Russia. … Leave their market immediately, because it is flooded with our blood,” the young leader said, asking lawmakers “to make sure that the Russians do not receive a single penny that they use to destroy our people in Ukraine, the destruction of our country, the destruction of Europe. … Peace is more important than income.”

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Most American companies get that. Some 400 U.S. and other multinational firms have pulled out of Russia, either permanently or temporarily, according to Yale’s Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, who has kept the authoritative list of corporate actions in Russia. Oil companies (BP, Shell, ExxonMobil) and tech companies (Dell, IBM, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter) led the way, and many others (McDonald’s, Starbucks, Coca-Cola) eventually followed.

But, according to Sonnenfeld, there are, at the other extreme, 33 companies (as of Wednesday afternoon) that form a “hall of shame,” defying demands that they exit Russia or reduce their activities there.

“They are funding the Russian war machine, and they are undermining the whole idea of the sanctions," Sonnenfeld told me. “The whole idea is to freeze up civil society, to get people out on the streets and outraged. They’re undermining an effective resolution” and increasing the likelihood of continued bloodshed.

Hotel brands are pausing development in Russia, but they aren’t pulling out completely

Those who want to stop Russia’s murderous attack against Ukraine should stop investing in or buying the products of these companies.

Koch Industries, whose owners gave to right-wing causes for years, is now financing Putin’s war. The people who make Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Quilted Northern toilet paper, Vanity Fair napkins and Georgia-Pacific lumber are abetting the spilling of Ukrainians’ blood.

Like Reebok shoes? They’re being used to stomp on Ukraine. Authentic Brands Group, which also owns Aeropostale, Eddie Bauer, Brooks Brothers and Nine West, among others, is in the hall of shame.

Before you bite into a Cinnabon (or Carvel ice cream, Schlotzsky’s sandwich or Auntie Anne’s pretzel) consider that parent company Focus Brands is taking a bite out of democracy in Ukraine.

So is Subway. While selling you the All-American Club, it’s giving Ukrainians the Cold-Cock Combo by refusing to cut loose its 446 Russian franchises.

Several other household brands — Truvia and Diamond Crystal salt (Cargill), Avon cosmetics (Natura), LG appliances, ASUS laptops, Mission tortillas (Gruma) and Pirelli tires — are produced by companies on the shameful list.

Are you or your mutual fund invested in Halliburton, Baker Hughes or Schlumberger? Then you should know that these oil-services companies could deal a huge blow to Putin’s ability to wage war — but they choose profit instead.

Let’s name and shame all the others among the 33: advertising firms BBDO, DDB and Omnicom; accountant Baker Tilly; industrial companies Air Liquide, Air Products, Greif, IPG Photonics, Linde, Mettler Toledo, Nalco and Rockwool; French hotelier Accor and retailers Auchan, Decathlon and Leroy Merlin; German wholesaler Metro; cloud service Cloudflare; International Paper; and Sweden’s Oriflame Cosmetics.

An additional 72 multinationals have made only partial pullbacks from Russia, such as reducing current operations or holding off on new investments — actions Sonnenfeld calls “very questionable” and “smokescreens.” Included here: Dunkin Donuts, General Mills, Mondelez (Oreos and other Nabisco products), candymaker Mars, Procter & Gamble, Yum Brands (Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott.

All these businesses could be doing more to stop Putin’s savagery and war crimes. Because they won’t, we all should do more to stop them. Go to Sonnenfeld’s website via Yale’s School of Management to make sure you aren’t funding the businesses that are funding Putin’s war machine — and reward the vast majority of companies that share Zelensky’s belief that peace is more important than profit.

Since publication, Yale’s Sonnenfeld has moved the following companies from Category 4 (“Digging In — Defying Demands for Exit or Reduction of Activities”) to Category 3 (“Scaling Back — Reducing Current Operations/Holding Off New Investments”): Air Liquide, Baker Tilly, Focus Brands, Linde and Rockwool. Mettler Toledo moved from Category 4 to Category 2 (“Suspension — Keeping Options Open for Return”). Young Living, a seller of essential oils, was added to Category 4. For future updates, visit Sonnenfeld’s site.

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