Leroy Merlin, a famous retailer and one of the largest French companies, is one of the 1600 companies still operating in Russia. But unlike many of these businesses, Leroy Merlin takes it to a whole other level.
In the first months of the full-scale war in March 2022, the retailer explained the decision to stay in Russia with the excuse that its employees “did nothing wrong.” At the same time, the company averted its eyes from the fact that one of the store employees in Ukraine was killed in the same month during a Russian attack on Kyiv. Back then, media reports emerged about the company trying to shush down the criticism of employees of the Ukrainian branch on the decision to stay in Russia. Reportedly, Leroy Merlin cut off Ukrainian employees from corporate communications and didn’t provide any corporate tools to assist with providing humanitarian relief for Ukraine.
Now, almost seven months into the unjustified and devastating war, according to the Ukrainian media RAU, the French retailer stepped up from silencing the employees who have questioned the company’s decision to stay in Russia to firing them. “If the employee asks too many questions, he is put on the “black list” and is no longer allowed to work,” media reports.
“Almost everyone who helped the military, volunteers, and employees has now been fired. Leroy is an absolutely pro-Russian company and I am very sorry for the years I gave them,” cited RAU one of the employees. A top manager of Leroy Merlin division in Ukraine told RAU that the personnel and external communications department had been completely eliminated and disbanded. The e-commerce department works partially. All functions are now performed by loyal employees.
Consistent pro-Russian position and anti-Ukrainian internal employer policy of Leroy Merlin since the start of the full-scale war suggest that the company puts profit before human lives. Last year, Leroy Merlin was one of the multinationals with the largest revenue in Russia received - $6.2 billion. According to Statista, in 2021, Russia was the country with the most Leroy Merlin employees - over 43,600 people. As one of the largest employers in Russia and a company with huge profits, Leroy Merlin is also one of the largest taxpayers in Russia. This means the company all along has been indirectly involved in financing the war, as the taxes are one of the primary sources of funding for Russia’s war.
Moreover now, as Russia has announced mobilization, Leroy Merlin, a huge French employer in Russia, may become directly involved in the war. The accompanying legislation on mobilization - known as Article 9 of Federal Law No. 31-FZ - mandates all organizations, including international companies, to conduct military registration of the staff if at least one of the employees is liable for military service. They must also assist with delivering the summons from the military to their employees, ensure the delivery of equipment to assembly points or military units, and provide buildings, communications, land plots, transport and other material means as well as information.
B4Ukraine is urging multinationals, including Leroy Merlin, to leave Russia immediately to avoid becoming directly complicit in Russia’s devastating war, war crimes, and atrocities in Ukraine. It is an obligation for international companies to understand how their operations cause, contribute to or are linked to impacts on rights-holders and the conflict itself. How a company chooses to meet its obligations to protect and respect rights in Ukraine will define its reputation far beyond Russia for years to come.