Since President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February last year, the departure of the international business community has been rapid.
Large international banks like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank and Citi all said their do svidaniyas, most major index providers and passive fund managers removed Russia from their products, and the number of international companies with operations in Russia remains small and continues to shrink.
“Increasingly, any association [with Russia] is being interpreted as support of the regime,” Oana Branzei, strategy and sustainability professor at the Ivey Business School in Ontario, told Capital Monitor last year.
The opprobrium heaped on multinational consumer packaged goods company Unilever at the beginning of July was significant when it emerged that it had not only refused to leave Russia, it had seen its profits in the country almost double to Rub9.2bn ($99m) in 2022 and had paid taxes of Rub3.8bn last year.
The company owns eight Russian enterprises, including a margarine factory in Moscow, a sauce factory, a tea-packing factory as well as a perfume and cosmetics factory in St. Petersburg, a food factory and an ice cream factory in Tula, as well as ice cream factories in Novosibirsk and Omsk.
As this emerged, the company was put on the International Sponsor of War watchlist by the Ukrainian government – a list Kyiv keeps of those who refuse to cease doing business with Russia, as opposed to a more global list of corporations that deal with militant states.
“Unilever uses the words ‘least bad option’ to justify staying in Russia. These can be translated into plain English as ‘most profitable option’,” says Mark Dixon, founder of the Moral Rating Agency.
No end in sight to Myanmar’s troubles
But there has been little attention on continued corporate engagement with conflict on the other side of the world: in Myanmar.
Since a military coup d’état in February 2021, which took place only three months after Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, the Burmese military junta has declined to negotiate either with the resistance movement or regional organisations like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United Nations.