Ukraine: The Business Response

March 1, 2022
  • Aron Cramer portrait

    Aron Cramer

    President and CEO, BSR

The news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken the world.

First and foremost, we stand with the brave people of Ukraine, who have been subjected to unnecessary and unfathomable suffering due to this illegitimate and brutal invasion of a sovereign nation. We are horrified by the death, destruction, and displacement Ukraine is experiencing. We urge the rapid end to this conflict with the restoration of full respect for democracy, rule of law, and human rights, and international cooperation to end the suffering of the Ukrainian people. This invasion should also remind us that millions of people in many parts of the world also continue to live under the threat of devastating political violence, often without the global attention the invasion of Ukraine has received.

The situation in Ukraine raises significant questions for business. Vast numbers of companies have ended or suspended their activities with Russia, combined with economic sanctions undertaken by numerous governments. We strongly support these efforts, in the name of the most rapid end possible to this conflict.

While the situation continues to unfold rapidly, there are seven key points for business to consider. Some point to immediate actions, and some relate to longer-term questions. BSR has been providing updates and advice to companies on how they can and should contribute to the most rapid resolution possible.

  • Protect Staff: First and foremost, it is crucial that companies take all measures to ensure that their staff in affected locations are protected and that they can offer support to relatives in Ukraine, Russia, and other affected countries. This support extends to the impact these events may have on colleagues who are not directly affected, but who are concerned about new security risks presented by Russia’s actions.
  • Express Support for Rule of Law: We have called in other contexts for businesses to express their support for democracy, human rights, and rule of law, and this is a time to restate these calls to action. At a time when human rights, democracy, and rule of law are under threat in all regions of the world, business should use its voice clearly and consistently to reinforce these fundamental underpinnings of both society and business.
  • Withdrawal or Suspension of Commercial Relationships: Hundreds of companies have decided to withdraw from Russian activities. These decisions, taken by the lion’s share of international business, avoid potential complicity in the invasion. They also stand to reinforce the economic sanctions undertaken by most of the governments of the world’s largest economic actors and send a strong signal of solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
  • Support Relief Efforts: Business can bring to bear the financial, logistical, and other support that can mitigate the human suffering of refugees and others displaced by this conflict. In addition to direct support, business can and should express its support for refugee and other displaced populations, not only in Europe but elsewhere.
  • Stay Focused on Climate: Yesterday’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes plain the need for decisive, urgent action to combat the growing climate crisis.  The situation in Ukraine is now occupying the minds of policymakers and business leaders. The spike in energy prices is already causing some to argue that we cannot “afford” to focus on clean energy. We cannot let the urgent crowd out our focus on matters of long-term importance. Business leaders should not only reconfirm their commitment to net zero, but also communicate to policymakers that we cannot lose precious time in the transition to an inclusive clean energy economy.
  • Prepare for Future Threats to Resilient Business: The news from Ukraine reinforces the essential value of futures thinking in business strategy. As Nik Gowing has written, we are living in an era when the previously unthinkable becomes reality. This extends well beyond geopolitics to social, economic, and environmental shocks. Futures thinking through the lens of scenarios enables companies to anticipate profound change. Boards and leadership teams should use these tools to ensure that their businesses are truly resilient.

The world is facing another humanitarian crisis, and an attack on the rules-based international order. Business action can help to alleviate suffering, express global solidarity with displaced people and support for human rights, and, in doing so, reinforce practices that will help their companies achieve resilience in the face of a world that delivers wave after wave of change.


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