Russia: US gay rights activists boycott Stolichnaya vodka over controversial Russian laws on homosexuals; some call for boycott of Sochi Olympics sponsors

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Article
13 August 2013

Can consumer boycotts change the world?

Author: Tansy Hoskins, Guardian (UK)

Stolichnaya's owners, Luxemburg holding company SPI Group, posted a supportive letter from CEO Val Mendeleev emphasising the brand's links with the LGBT community...Despite the ingredients for Stolichnaya being grown on Russian SPI owned farms, the company sought to distance itself from claims that it is a Russian brand, as it's Latvian made and Luxembourgian owned...Claims that Stolichnaya was being unfairly targeted came from many, including LGBT activists in Russia and Latvia who called on people not to follow the boycott because it would damage both workers and campaigns in Russia and Latvia...[A representative of the National Union of Students LGBT campaign says:] "It is good to have a company like SPI make supportive statements but it has not changed anything in Russia. People must go deeper and look for the systemic problems..."...SPI's instant response is testimony to the depth of anger towards Russia felt by LGBT people around the world...While governments can be difficult to get at, companies – with their increasing use of social media and consumer engagement – make softer targets. The #dumpstoli message for businesses is that no brand is safe if they are viewed as being hypocritical.

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Article
7 August 2013

Stolichnaya Vodka's parent company now includes gays in its non-discrimination policy [Luxembourg]

Author: James Withers, Gay Star News (UK)

The parent company of Stolichnaya Vodka, SPI Group, has recently added sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination clause…Mendeleev [Stolichnaya CEO] was asked why Stoli had no non-discrimination policy concerning gay and transgender employees. 'Because so far we didn’t need that,' Mendeleev said…[N]ow sexual orientation is included in the parent company's site, but there remains no mention of gender identity. 'SPI Group is an equal opportunity employer,' the website says. 'SPI Group does not and will not discriminate in employment or personnel practices on the basis of race, sex, age, sexual orientation, handicap, religion, national origin.'…

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Article
30 July 2013

US gay activists emboldened as Russian vodka, Sochi protests spread [Russia]

Author: RIA Novosti

...As boycotts of Russian vodka spread across the globe in protest over new Russian laws on homosexuality, US gay rights activists warn the campaign could be the first stage in a broader drive targeting Russia’s economy and image with the Sochi Winter Olympics six months away...Amid a stream of images and reports highlighting an official crackdown and vigilante violence against gays in Russia, US activists...called for a boycott of Russian vodka, a campaign that has centered on Stolichnaya...brand...The movement has morphed into a global groundswell, with gay bars in several US cities being joined by establishments in Canada, Britain and Australia in yanking Russian vodka from their shelves. At the same time, there has been a smattering of calls to boycott the Sochi games...[T]he lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community could take the momentum from the vodka boycotts and pressure corporations sponsoring the Sochi Olympics, including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble and Visa, said Nina Long, co-president of RUSA LGBT, a gay rights group made up of Russian-Americans in New York...A controversial law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors is worded too vaguely to hold it up as a clear demonstration of human rights violations, she said. [also refers to Caterpillar, Ernst & Young, Holiday Inn, Hyatt, Marriott, and Sheraton]

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