What will business do after the war?
Updated: Jan 6
You can’t get your hopes up too early, but if the reports are to be believed there seems to be some movement towards a peace deal to end the war in the Ukraine. So for all the brands and companies which have withdrawn from Russia, for all the countries (including the UK) which have sanctioned Russian businesses and oligarchs, what next?
The questions that they have to answer are:
1. Can they do business in Russia while Putin is still in charge, given that President Biden (among others) have called him a war criminal, and that he and his henchmen are likely to be charged with war crimes by the International Court of Justice? This is a two way street:
a. Is it acceptable to do business with this regime? Most would say no.
b. Will Putin forgive those who have pulled out? Again I’d expect the answer is no.
2. How is the world economy going to wean itself off Russian commodities – given that it is the supplier of most of Europe’s gas, most of the world’s nickel (needed for electric cars) and is a major supplier of oil, vanadium, platinum, iron – the list goes on and on? China, India and Pakistan (which has said is completing a gas pipeline from Russia despite the invasion of Ukraine) are among countries who have continued buying from Russia through the war. If the West snubs Russia it will continue selling to those economies, strengthening their position via a vis Europa and the US;
3. Will the oligarchs have their sanctions lifted? What about companies such as EVRAZ which have had their listings on Western markets suspended because they are Russian businesses or controlled by Russians? Will their shares be relisted?
4. Will consumers forgive brands that stayed in Russia through the war – such as Danone? Will these companies loose smart, principled employees? Will investors withdraw their funds permanently?
5. Does the action on Russia set a precedent for other wars? It seems that Western governments are happy to kowtow to Saudi Arabia (as we need their oil) despite the horrendous war in Yemen that it is supporting, and its awful human rights record. There are many other examples around the world. But of course they’re not in our back door. I suspect the answer is an emphatic no!
To be clear, most of the actions to withdraw from Russia are about perception not principle. And as a result no-one has given a great thought to what happens next. They will need to.