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18 Jan 2023

Joel Hills, ITV

Unilever's CEO defends decision to maintain business in Russia, insists company does not gain any profit

Boss of Unilever defends decision to retain business in Russia, 18 January 2023

...In the last eleven months, many of the companies...either withdrawn from Russia or suspended the business they do there. But some remain. Among them the British consumer goods giant, Unilever, whose chief executive...defended the decision to stay.

“We’ve drawn an economic ring around Russia, we want to make sure that we are not contributing to the economy there,” Alan Jope told ITV News in Davos. “If we hand [our] assets over to the Russian state or some other Russian oligarch they will be used to support this war and we are minimising [the Russian] business not maximising that business.”

The Ukrainian government accuses firms which continue to operate in Russia of taking “blood money”. “I don’t agree,” Jope told...“Our primary responsibility is to our 3,000 people who we have on the ground”.

Unilever operates four factories in Russia, in St Petersburg, Tula, Omsk and Yekaterinburg.Together, these sites produce all of the company’s famous brands of ice cream (Carte D’or and Cornetto), mayonnaise (Hellman's), cleaning products (Domestos and Cif), tea (Brooke Bond and Lipton), cooking sauces (Knorr), deodorants and soaps (Dove).

Unilever condemned Russia’s actions, immediately after the invasion of Ukraine but, at the time, the company insisted that it would continue to supply what it called “everyday essential food and hygiene products” to the Russian people.Jope wouldn’t say if Unilever’s Russian business is making money but insisted that the company is “not taking any dividends or profits out of Russia”.

Jope wouldn’t say if Unilever’s Russian business is making money but insisted that the company is “not taking any dividends or profits out of Russia”.

As it happens, Western sanctions and capital controls make that impossible anyway, for the moment, but a source close to the company later clarified that were any profits to be made, they would stay within Unilever’s Russian business and therefore out of the reach of the Russian state...