Companies doing business with barbaric Putin's Russia cannot be taken seriously as moral operators - Mark Casci

When McDonald’s opened its first branch in Moscow in 1990, huge queues formed with Russians keen for a taste of the West.

The move was widely-viewed as being one of the key milestones that would eventually lead to the fall of the Soviet Union and with it the end of the Cold War.

McDonald’s would go on to open a further 850 restaurants in Russia as the superpower increasingly opened to the West economically, trading in energy commodities and other global sectors.

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However, as of this week, McDonald’s is bringing this post Glasnost period to an end.

Vladimir Putin

The fast food giant has started the process of selling its Russian business.

Given it employs some 62,000 people in Russia, the move is among the most major western corporations to exit Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February.

Citing the humanitarian crisis Vladimir Putin’s ghastly invasion has precipitated, McDonald’s bosses said it is “no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values” to remain in the country.

McDonald’s is far from the only business to have turned its back on Russia. British energy giants Shell and BP, as well as French carmaker Renault, have pulled operations from the country, taking substantial hits to their bottom lines as they seek to sell their holdings there.

McDonald's is exiting Russia.

However, these firms are far from representing a prevailing trend. Attitudes across the West vary little when it comes to their attitude to Russia since its deadly war was directed at the innocent people of Ukraine.

Research by Stuart Bruce Associates, a Leeds-based reputation management and crisis communications consultancy, reveals that the majority of consumers in the United Kingdom, United States and Germany have personally considered boycotting companies continuing to do business in Russia. In Britain and America more than two thirds have said they would countenance such a move.

Respondents were asked that if they had a choice between a product made by a company that had closed its operations in Russia and one that was still operating there (assuming a similar price and quality). In all countries respondents would choose the product that had closed its operations in Russia, while the levels of support for this were high in the United States and Britain at 85 per cent and 84 per cent respectively.

Let us be clear what the Russian invasion has entailed for Ukraine and the world.

McDonald's is taking a stand.

It has destabilised world peace at a time when the world is just getting back on its feet after the pandemic.

It has brought war back to Europe for the first time in more than a generation.

It has increased fuel and food prices for millions of people, pushing people into poverty as a result.

And it has seen innocent civilians murdered in war crimes across Ukraine, many of them children, and displaced many thousands of people from their homes.

Ukrainian refugees Elena Sidorova, 30, her husband Vladimir Sidorova, 31, and their daughters Polina (centre), aged 9, and twins Eva (left) and Zlata (right), aged 2, who fled their home in Odesa, at the Egros refugee transit centre in Iasi, Romania.

At a time when Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) and Corporate and Social Responsibility have never been further up the agenda for corporations, this conflict should be seen as a key litmus test of the veracity of their intent to do good.

Two thirds of respondents in all countries do not think companies can claim to be ethical if they maintain operations in Russia in light of the invasion and war crimes committed.

In addition roughly a third of people say they think companies should only scale back, so as not to hurt blameless local employees.

So, if business wants to show it has evolved from the reckless greed that brought us the financial crisis, now is the time to manifest that it truly has turned the corner.

Putin’s barbarism cannot be unchecked by anyone who has the opportunity to do so.

And with the bravery of the Ukrainian military now showing signs of turning the tide, now is the time to be on the right side of history and turn one’s back on Putin’s megalomaniacal designs on an independent nation and end his attempts to restore the evil Soviet Union’s totalitarian grip on freedom and democracy-loving peoples.