Mondelez CEO Van de Put explains why the snacking giant still does business in Russia: “until we have to really go it’s okay”
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Mondelez CEO did not say a word about Ukraine when he had to justify why the major snack company is still doing business in maddened Russia. “Until we have to really go it’s okay,” explained Dirk Van de Put on the possibility of Mondelez pulling out of the country that has unleashed the greatest war in Europe since the Second World War. Van de Put was asked in a recent Reuters interview how he feels about the company’s decision not to leave Russia, as about 1000 internationals did, and why it keeps doing business even given that the situation there has gotten worse. But the Belgian businessman assured that he doesn’t feel the firm is supporting the war. While warmly talking about his Russian friends’ well-being and justifying selling chocolates and biscuits to Russians, he said NOTHING about genocide, torture, murder, rape, and refugees in Ukraine.

“We maintain a flexible position, an agile position. We are in a situation where we can stay, and it’s going to depend largely on the circumstances, or we’re also in a position where we might decide to exit. So it’s not a permanent position. It’s gonna depend largely on where things evolve to. The question is why did we stay? We sell biscuits and chocolates, I’m perfectly aware of that. But we feel we are providing a certain service to the consumers. As I was explaining, in difficult times, these are go-to categories. We don’t necessarily feel that the Russian consumer needs to be punished for the decisions that are being made”, explained Van de Put.

“Second, we have a group of very dedicated people that have been working with us for years and I find it difficult to turn our back on them”, – continued Mondelez CEO. “So we wanna accompany them and make sure that they are okay and that they can continue a good personal and professional life. At this stage, it didn’t feel yet the moment to exit”.

“And three, we have a whole group of farmers who supply us with our products. They depend largely on us. So we would be not only leaving our own associates behind but it would be a big effect on the supply chain and the farmers in Russia. So we feel until we have to really go it’s okay. We don’t feel like we’re supporting the war through what we do. For the time being, we wanna remain as we are, but as I said, we have to be vigilant and be ready to exit if we need to”, added Van de Put.

Mondelez was on the list of 50 top-earning multinationals in Russia in 2020 and has three factories in the country employing some 2,500 Russians. As Insider reported, Mondelez generates 3.5% of its total revenue from Russia, an estimated total of $1 billion. This makes Mondelez one of the big taxpayers in the country and, therefore, indirectly involved in financing the Russian war economy.

The maker of Oreo cookies maker does not provide essential food that Russian consumers require to sustain health or life and for which they need a steady supply.

Russian media reported in May that the company was still selling chocolates, biscuits, and chewing gum in Russia (Alpen Gold, Picnic, Milka, Toblerone). It increased the price of chocolates by 9-15%, biscuits by 10-19%, and gum by 10%.

Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine 7,8 mn Ukrainians left their homes and became refugees. 430 Ukrainian children were killed, 828 were wounded, and 262 were missing. 6,490 civilians were killed and 9,972 were injured. Russia continues to bomb and shell Ukrainian cities every day.

B4Ukraine believes it is impossible for a reputable, values-driven company to continue doing business in a state, which has already begun to be recognized in the world as a terrorist state that commits genocide.

We, therefore, call on Mondelēz to apply the principles of our Declaration and take immediate steps to:

  1. End continuing business/trade/investment in Russia.
  2. Stay out of business/trade/investment in Russia until Russia ends its war in Ukraine, the territorial integrity of Ukraine is restored and accountability is imposed for war crimes and the destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure and property.
  3. Establish and carry out heightened human rights due diligence on business operations for any exit from or re-engagement with Russia.
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