Mondelez, Nestle, and PepsiCo, the makers of Oreo cookies, are facing backlash from workers in Ukraine and Eastern Europe who are enraged by the corporations’ choice to continue doing 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.’
To be fair, the employees who are speaking out, or even resigning, in response to Russia’s invasion are mostly from Ukraine, Poland, or Eastern Europe, and represent a small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of people employed by the food manufacturers.
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% cash back on purchases and prizes.
One week before its scheduled premiere in Russia, the film ‘The Batman’ was pulled from 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.
According to screenshots from the employee petition, ‘every Russian ruble paid to the state budget in the form of taxes and salaries (helps the) aggressor supply its army and slaughter even more Ukrainian people, among whom are children, women, and the elderly.’
‘We support our colleagues, not the policies of their governments or countries,’ Gruber stated.
Mondelez, based in Chicago, said in a statement, ‘We appreciate our colleagues speaking up and sharing their voice on this terrible and senseless war. As we handle day-to-day operations, we’ve heard a variety of diverse views from colleagues around the world, and our leaders are in active discussion with their teams.’