Unilever, the British consumer goods giant, has announced that it will allow its Russian employees to be called up for military service if required. This decision has drawn criticism from the Ukrainian government, which has condemned Unilever for continuing to operate in Russia.
In a letter addressed to a collective of Ukrainian and Western NGOs, Unilever stated that it will fully comply with a Russian law that mandates all companies operating in the country to permit the conscription of employees if they are called for military service. The company emphasized that it always complies with the laws of the countries it operates in.
Although Unilever halted exports and imports to and from Russia last year, as well as suspended investment, advertising, and further projects in the country, it has continued to manufacture and sell essential food and hygiene products in Russia. This decision has led to the Ukrainian government branding Unilever as an “international sponsor of war.”
In its letter, Unilever explained its stance on mobilization, stating that it condemns the war in Ukraine as a brutal and senseless act by the Russian state. However, the company chose not to withdraw its operations and risk their nationalization. It also opted not to sell its Russian division and allow Moscow to take a portion of the proceeds from the sale.
Unilever employs approximately 3,000 people in Russia and is responsible for manufacturing popular brands such as Domestos cleaning products, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Dove soap, and various food and household chemicals.
Russia initiated a partial mobilization last September, conscripting around 300,000 reservists. While Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in June that there is no current need for another mobilization drive, the Russian military continues to recruit around 1,300 contract soldiers daily, according to Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.
In summary, Unilever has decided to allow its Russian employees to be summoned for military service in compliance with Russian law. This decision has sparked criticism from the Ukrainian government, which has branded the company as a “war sponsor.” Unilever justifies its decision by highlighting its commitment to compliance with the laws of the countries it operates in and the need to safeguard its operations in Russia.