B4Ukraine — an international coalition of more than 80 civil society organisations — calls on the G7, EU, and Swiss governments to do more to urge companies to cut ties with Russia, one year on from the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The majority of Swiss international firms which had ties to Russia at the start of 2022 continue to do business in the country, a new analysis of 3,078 multinationals reveals.
Based on data from the Kyiv School of Economics, the analysis titled “Unfinished Business” found 1,717 or 56% of international firms which had ties to Russia at the start of 2022 continue to do business with the country. For Swiss companies that percentage stands at 52% or 72 of 139 companies.
Of the 67 Swiss firms with Russian subsidiaries at the start of the war, only 8 have fully exited, about 12%. While some prominent Swiss brands such as Zurich Insurance have completed their full exits, there are numerous examples of those choosing to remain and conduct business in Russia. Amongst those are the world’s largest food and beverage company Nestlé, an agricultural giant Syngenta Group and a chemicals corporation Ems-Chemie, to mention a few.
The tax contribution of the Swiss companies that chose to remain in the Russia market amounted to roughly $4 billion a year between 2020-2021. And for every $1 the Swiss government declares in bilateral aid to Ukraine, Swiss-based companies may still be paying $17 in taxes to the Russian state.
“One year after the invasion and nine years since the beginning of Russia’s aggression, this is far too little progress,” said Eleanor Nichol, Executive Director of the B4Ukraine Coalition. “While the Swiss government has politically supported Ukraine, over half of their major companies have chosen to continue doing business with the regime — continuing to pay taxes, indirectly supporting this horrific war and undermining sanctions.”
B4Ukraine is calling on G7, EU, and Swiss governments to urge their businesses to cut ties with Russia and issue market guidance advisories to warn of the heightened risks of continuing business there.
“While the companies doing business with Russia are reporting on their increased profits in the past year, Ukrainians are recounting their losses: the millions of lives forever disrupted by over 70,000 Russian war crimes, tens of thousands of casualties among the Ukrainian civilians, including 461 children. Over 5,300 missiles and kamikaze drones targeting critical infrastructure, apartment blocks, schools, hospitals across Ukraine were made possible in part by the taxes paid by multinationals in Russia,” says Nataliya Popovych, member of the B4Ukraine Coalition.
Remaining companies must now also grapple with changes to domestic law requiring them to facilitate conscription for eligible employees and provide material support to the Russian military upon request, as well as threats of government expropriation of their assets.
“Companies are playing a potentially lethal game of corporate Russian roulette by willfully accepting exposure to an array of regulatory, legal, reputational, and financial risks by continuing to do business and utilize supply chains under military control in Russia,” said Rich Stazinski, member of the B4Ukraine Coalition.
“As the invasion passes its tragic anniversary, CEOs are gambling with Ukrainian lives by ignoring mounting risks in pursuit of marginal profits. It is past time for allied governments to issue business advisories on Russia and clearly convey these heightened material risks to their domiciled companies,” added Rich Stazinski.
B4Ukraine urges all governments and their economic agencies to use all available powers not to support trade and investment activity with Russia, including withholding public money from companies which continue doing business with Russia.
The data used for this analysis is accurate as of 14 February 2023