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 overwhelming majority of German 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 259 or 69% of German firms which had ties to Russia at the start of 2022 continue to do business with the country.
Of the 248 German companies that had a local Russian subsidiary at the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, 20 have fully exited, about 8% or just under one in ten.
The remaining companies paid at least $2 billion in taxes to Russia in 2021 — enough to fund Russia’s war against Ukraine for about a week.
“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 G7 governments have been supporting Ukraine, providing billions of pounds in support, almost 1000 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.”
When compared to the group’s contributions in aid, for every $7 G7 governments declare in bilateral aid to Ukraine, its companies may still be paying $1 in taxes to the Russian state. Companies in France, Germany, Italy and Japan have the poorest records when it comes to withdrawal. And for every $4 the German government declares in bilateral aid to Ukraine, its companies may still be paying $1 in taxes to the Russian state.
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 Russia’s 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.
Despite high numbers of companies from G7 remaining, over 1000 companies have recognised the risks and begun the process of cutting ties with Russia. There have also been some consequential exits from the Russian market — such as Société Générale and FMC — serving as an example that a swift and orderly exit from Russia is possible.
As for German business players, industrial equipment companies headquartered in Germany have been particularly slow to leave the Russian market. The supermarket chain Metro AG and one of the largest manufacturers of building materials in the world Knauf are amongst the most recognizable German brands still operating in Russia.
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 G7 governments including Germany 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