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Employees In Europe Are Pressuring Oreo, Nestle, And Pepsi Over Russia

Employees In Europe Are Pressuring Oreo, Nestle, And Pepsi Over Russia
According to internal corporate correspondence examined by media reports, Reuters and interviews with workers, Mondelez, Nestle, and PepsiCo are facing staff defections in Ukraine and pushback from workers in eastern Europe who are angry about the companies' plans to keep some business in Russia.
Employee activism follows Ukraine's repeated pleas to Western corporations to go beyond current sanctions and break all commercial connections with Russia, with the mayor of Kviv dubbing such payments to Moscow "bloody money." find out more
To be fair, the employees protesting or resigning over the companies' response to Russia's invasion are mostly from Ukraine, Poland, or Eastern Europe, and make up a small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of people employed by the food corporations.
Nestle has seen an undisclosed number of Ukraine employees quit and others abused on social media for continuing with a company doing business with Russia, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.
In March, some 130 Mondelez employees in the Baltics region, which includes Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, signed a petition to CEO Dirk Van de Put requesting that all commerce in Russia be halted, an action that had previously gone unreported.
Mondelez employees interviewed by Reuters in Ukraine expressed surprise and dismay that their business was still promoting "The Batman" Oreo cookies in Russia and providing opportunities to win up to 500,000 roubles ($6,000) on an Oreo website.
Winners whose phone numbers begin with the Russian country code were given movie tickets and caps as recently as Wednesday, according to the website.
In a promotion that began March 15, three weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, another website promoting Milka chocolates offered Russian residents up to 20 per cent cash back on purchases and prizes.
"The Batman" movie was pulled from release in Russia one week before it was scheduled to reach theatres.
According to a source familiar with the situation, Warner Bros Discovery Inc, which owns the movie studio that produced "The Batman," informed its partners, including Mondelez, about the decision but had no say in whether "The Batman"-branded products were taken from store shelves.
Mondelez did not directly react to inquiries concerning the "The Batman" Oreos or Milka advertisements, but it did state that it does not advertise on Russian television. The corporation announced on March 9 that it would stop investing on advertising media.
Consumer goods businesses such as Unilever and P&G have stated that they will continue to do business in Russia because certain of their products are basics that everyday Russians require, such as diapers and milk. They're also helping Ukraine's humanitarian efforts.
Nestle, PepsiCo, and Mondelez, the world's three largest packaged food companies by market capitalization, have not said which of their brands are still available in Russia or what they consider crucial.
According to screenshots of an internal social media statement leaked with Reuters by a Mondelez employee, workers "strongly oppose" the company's choice to continue in Russia. Because he was not authorised to speak to the media, the employee declined to be identified.
"Each Russian ruble paid to the state budget in the form of taxes and salaries (helps the) aggressor supply its army and kill even more Ukrainian people, among which there are children, women, elderly people," the employee petition states, according to the screenshots.
Russia refers to its efforts in Ukraine as a "special operation," claiming that they are not intended to take land and that civilians are not being targeted.
According to the screenshot, Mondelez European President Vinzenz Gruber responded to the tweet, saying that "our culture (at Mondelez) includes everyone who shares our values and cries for peace."
"We stand by our colleagues and not by their governments/country decisions," Gruber wrote.
"We appreciate that our employees are speaking up and are sharing their voice on this heartbreaking and senseless war," Chicago-based Mondelez said in a statement. "We have heard a range of different voices from colleagues around the world, and our leaders are in active dialogue with their teams as we manage day-to-day operations."
In addition to 19 posts on internal corporate message boards, one PepsiCo employee, two Mondelez employees, and three Nestle employees each told Reuters that they want their companies to take a firmer stance against Russia.
"Our grandparents told us terrible stories" about Russian actions in Poland during World War Two, said Patrycja Stas, 40, a manager at Pepsi in Warsaw. "I see the same thing is repeating in Ukraine, and it is extremely depressing."
Stas told the press that she is quitting her job for reasons unrelated to the war, but that Pepsi's continued business in Russia proved she made the right choice.
Pepsi has stopped selling soda in Russia, but it continues to sell "daily staples" such as snacks and dairy goods. Pepsi did not respond to a request for comment.
In an internal email seen by Reuters in March, Nestle's European business chief, Marco Settembri, said he was "saddened to learn that staff are departing" and "very worried to hear of employees being bullied and threatened" on social media.
The memo was sent to the head of Nestle's business services centre in Lviv, Ukraine, as well as senior executives at the company, including the head of human resources and the head of crisis management.
According to a Nestle spokeswoman, the company had about 5,800 employees in Ukraine at the start of the war, but many have since gone.
Sofia Vashchenko, a manager at Nestle in Lviv, Ukraine, for nearly eight years before leaving this month, wrote on LinkedIn that her team of about 20 people was "mentally broken" after listening to a Europe-wide webcast in which Nestle's Settembri said the company would continue to support colleagues in Russia in response to a question about the company's operations there.
"People who are in the middle of a war with the Russian military don't want to hear that," she said last week in an interview.
Nestle first simply ceased its advertising and capital efforts in Russia, infuriating its own staff as well as Ukrainian politicians over the sale of KitKat bars to Moscow.
In March, several Lviv-based employees wrote an open letter to Nestle CEO Mark Schneider on the company's internal messaging board, which was viewed by Reuters, saying that "our people feel deceived" by the company's continued business in Russia.
Nestle announced later that month that it will stop selling a wide range of its products in Russia, including KitKat chocolate bars and Nesquik. find out more
Nestle continues to sell necessities in Russia, such as infant food, but has announced that revenues would be donated to charity. Reuters spoke with three employees who want more clarity about what the corporation considers critical.
"We have been focused on the safety and security of our Ukrainian colleagues and doing all we can to support them and their families," a Nestle spokesperson said, adding that it has been giving people advance salary payments, one-off payments to support relocations and offering people jobs in other Nestle operating companies.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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