Big beauty is closing ranks, and saying “No” to business in Russia.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attacks on Ukraine intensify, with more than two million people having fled the country, beauty giants, including L’Oréal, Unilever and The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., have halted all commercial activity and advertising in Russia.
The companies’ moves mirror those of many luxury, mass and fast-fashion brands that have also begun pausing operations and shutting stores, and decisions by credit, FMCG and tech industries to comply with US, UK and European government sanctions against Russia, and show solidarity with Ukraine.
As the war grinds on, beauty companies are taking a far harder line against Russia. Last week, after the conflict began, many companies stopped short of criticizing Putin, or shutting down business in the region. Instead, they made statements about protecting employees in Ukraine, making charity donations and aiding refugees.
It’s clear now that, no matter how big or small their businesses are, they’re willing to take a stand, sacrifice profits, and the goodwill of their local partners and Russian consumers.
“We strongly condemn the Russian invasion and the war in Ukraine, which is causing so much suffering to the Ukrainian people,” said L’Oréal in a statement Tuesday.
The world’s largest beauty company said that, from a commercial point of view, it is “fully aligned with the position of the French and European authorities.
“We have decided to temporarily close all of our own stores and directly operated counters in department stores, and to suspend all industrial and national media investments. We have also taken the decision to temporarily close our own brand e-commerce sites in Russia. We are assessing additional measures, whilst still taking care of our 2,200 Russian employees.”
The group said its priority is to support its 326 Ukrainian employees and their families, the majority of whom remain in the country. L’Oréal is helping its employees in Ukraine with financial and psychological help.
The company’s teams in neighboring countries and elsewhere around the world are supporting their colleagues and a global employee fundraising campaign and volunteering program was started.
L’Oréal is also donating up to 5 million euros to local and international NGOs and United Nations agencies. A quarter million essential care and hygiene products have already been distributed, and L’Oréal will provide more products in weeks to come.
The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. said that having halted its investments and initiatives in Russia last week, “we have also decided to suspend all commercial activity in Russia, including closing every store we own and operate, as well as our brand sites and shipments to any of our retailers.” in Russia. Our top priority remains the safety of all our employees and we have decided to continue to provide compensation and support to our employees in Russia at this time.”
The group said it “continues to be devastated by the tragic invasion of Ukraine.”
Among its support to help its employees and people of that country, The Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation has committed $1 million in support of relief efforts in the country.
Sephora has also joined in, temporarily closing its stores and e-commerce in Russia.
“Given our increasing concerns about the current context and the complexity to operate, we will suspend our activity in Russia until further notice. The safety of our local teams is our priority and we will continue to support them in this difficult time.”
In less than a week, Unilever’s statement went from: “We’re watching with concern and focusing on the safety of our people” to a full-blown condemnation of the war, and a decision to hit pause on all business with Russia.
The company’s chief executive officer Alan Jope said the company continues to condemn the war in Ukraine “as a brutal and senseless act by the Russian state.”
The corporate giant, parent of brands ranging from Dove and Vaseline to Magnum and Hellmann’s, said it has suspended all imports and exports of its products into and out of Russia, “and we will stop all media and advertising spend.”
The company said it “will not invest any further capital into the country, nor will we profit from our presence in Russia. We will continue to supply our everyday essential food and hygiene products made in Russia to people in the country. We will keep this under close review.”
Unilever added that business operations in Ukraine have stopped and the company is “fully focused on ensuring the safety of our Ukrainian employees and their families, including helping with their evacuation where necessary, and providing additional financial support.”
The company said it has committed to donating 5 million euros of “essential Unilever products” to the humanitarian relief effort. The company said: “We join calls for an end to this war and hope that peace, human rights, and the international rule of law will prevail.”
Shiseido, which does not have any employees in the Ukraine, said in a statement on March 3 that it is “mindful of our extended family of business partners and our consumers, to whom we also aim to provide support.”
The group has donated 1 million euros to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
“We will continue to look for any possible ways to support people who are suffering from this ongoing conflict,” said Shiseido, who, like other beauty giants, has started an employee donation matching scheme to augment its humanitarian actions.
On March 2, Coty Inc. stated: “We stand firmly with all those calling for peace and an end to the violence in Ukraine. Our hearts go out to all who are in harm’s way and who have family and loved ones affected.”
The group said its local teams have mobilized to support humanitarian relief campaigns.
“As a business and individually, we have been exploring ways to do more,” Coty wrote.
The company will support the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and is matching employee donations to those organizations.
“European consumer goods companies face small or modest near-term consequences from the widening boycott of Russia, sanctions and war in Ukraine given mostly limited exposure to the relatively underdeveloped Russian market,” said Scope Ratings GmbH, in a statement.
“However, the fast-changing circumstances of the crisis related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine make it hard to judge the longer-term impact on the sector from the Russian economic crisis, disrupted supply chains and spill-over effects on consumer confidence and household spending. in Europe and the rest of the world,” it continued.
For more, see:
Condé Nast Pauses Russian Operations
G-III Diverting Russian Profits to Support Ukrainian People
Russian Designer Valentin Yudashkin Dropped From Paris Schedule