While much of the world continues to watch and wait as Russian military forces have accelerated their attacks in key cities in Ukraine, the H&M Group, Nike and Puma are among the latest companies to alter operations in Russia.
More than 800,000 of Ukraine’s 44 million residents have fled the country, according to the United Nations and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for more international assistance.
“Deeply concerned about the tragic developments in Ukraine,” the H&M Group said Wednesday that it stands “with all the people who are suffering,” according to a statement on its site. In turn, the global retailer has temporarily paused all sales in Russia where it has shuttered about 170 stores. The company had already temporarily shuttered its nine stores in Ukraine as a measure to keep customers and staffers safe.
Continuously monitoring and evaluating the situation, H&M employees are in touch with stakeholders. While some companies have tweaked operations in Russia without explanation, H&M released a statement that read, “The H&M Group cares for all colleagues and joins all those around the world who are calling for peace. Clothes and other necessities are donated by the company. The H&M Foundation has also made donations to Save the Children and to the [United Nations Refugee Agency].”
Nike announced Tuesday that its online and app purchases are unavailable in Russia, due to the inability to guarantee deliveries to customers in the country.
Apple said Tuesday it has stopped product sales in Russia. In addition, RT News and Sputnik are no longer available for download from the App Store outside of Russia. Apple has also disabled traffic and live incidents in Apple Maps in Ukraine “as a safety and precautionary measure for Ukrainian citizens,” according to a statement from the company. Last week, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov wrote an open letter to Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook “to do everything possible to protect Ukraine.” Fedorov tweeted he had contacted Cook to block the Apple Store for citizens of the Russian federation and to support the package of U.S. government sanctions.
Puma’s stores in Russia are currently open, but deliveries to Russia have been stopped, according to a Puma spokesman. The company was quick to help its 380 employees in Ukraine and the surrounding region last week, by offering housing options in western Ukraine and Poland, as well as financial support.
Last year, Puma Russia and Ukraine accounted for less than 5 percent of the athletic company’s total revenues, the company spokesman said.
College of Staten Island history professor Susan Smith-Peter, who has written about Russia and Ukraine for 20 years, discussed the potential effectiveness of the sanctions Wednesday. “Will the sanctions end the assault in Kyiv? No. Will the sanctions help to show the Russian people and the elite that the entire world is horrified? Yes. If the goal is the second, it’s quite helpful. It’s a reasonable goal because what’s going on is unjustifiable,” she said.
“Sanctions and boycotts by governments and organizations are making clear that they don’t approve and are willing to forgo some profits to show that they don’t approve,” Smith-Peter said. “That’s laudable.”
As for how sanctions could financially punish Russian citizens who are opposed to the war in Ukraine, she acknowledged that many Russians are against the war and the fact that thousands of them are protesting is “extraordinary. Those people face severe consequences such as losing their jobs, possibly going to prison.”
Allowing that there will be some financial harm to the people of Russia, Smith-Peter said, “If the goal is to show that what Putin is doing is going to cause pain not just to Ukrainians, but to the Russian state, it’s hard to completely insulate Russian citizens from that. That pain may also shift some of them in their own thinking. And a lot of the sanctions are targeted at the oligarchs, who are the ones really losing a lot. Although it is true because of what’s happening with the [Russian] ruble [hitting an all-time low Wednesday], ordinary Russians are also undergoing difficult times now.”
In his first “State of the Union” address Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden announced the U.S. Justice Department’s plans for a new task force that will go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs.
Executives at several companies, including Amazon, Walmart, Gap, Foot Locker, Adidas, Authentic Brands Group, Ralph Lauren, Under Armour and Tory Burch, did not respond immediately to media inquiries Wednesday about any plans to alter their operations in Russia.
Hollywood production companies were among the first U.S.-based companies to take action in response to the Russian invasion. Disney, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Entertainment announced they will hold off on releasing any films in Russia.
The sanctions, product boycotts and cash shortages are impacting people in Russia at a time when their lives and financial standing have already been hit by the pandemic. In an October 2021 survey of adults in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other parts of Russia, respondents said they were more anxious about the future and less optimistic that they will be better off financially, according to an EY survey. That decline could be due to more difficult socioeconomic situations and lower incomes, according to the EY Future Consumer Index in Russia. Forty-seven percent of respondents noted that they spend more time at home and shop less frequently.
The U.S.-based retailer Talbots is among the American brands that is donating products to victims and refugees of Ukraine. The company is shipping 8,000 items to help Ukrainians through Give Back Box Charity Inc., a company spokeswoman said.
On Thursday, Adidas and Under Armour also spoke out in support of democracy and the people in Ukraine, while altering some of their respective business practices tied to Russia. Adidas has suspended its partnership with the Russian Football Union and is donating more than €100,000 and footwear and apparel to the Global Aid Network to help those in need in Ukraine, Moldova and Hungary. Following the situation closely, Adidas will take future business decisions and action as needed, while prioritizing employees’ safety and support.
Adidas said in a statement released March 3, “As a company, we strongly condemn any form of violence and stand in solidarity with those calling for peace. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ukrainian people, and everyone affected at this difficult time.”
On March 4, Adidas bolstered its charitable efforts, by making a total donation of €1 million to Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages, Terre des Hommes and UNO-Fluchtlingshilfe (the UNHCR’s German partner) to support the families evacuated from Ukraine with essentials. Adidas employees have contributed nearly €45,000 to its relief efforts and some have offered their own accommodations to displaced colleagues.
The athletic company announced on March 7 that it has suspended the operations of its stores and e-commerce site in Russia until further notice.
”Shocked and saddened – like the rest of the world by Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine,” Under Armour has partnered with humanitarian groups to help provide what is needed to the displaced and the company stopped all shipments to its sales channels in Russia. Citing “Stand for Equality” as one of its values, Under Armour noted in a statement, “We believe in the power of democracy, the ultimate team sport.”