- Some Nestlé employees in Ukraine quit over the company's business in Russia, Reuters reported.
- An executive said in an internal email he was "saddened to hear that employees are resigning."
- The maker of Cheerios and KitKats said it would keep selling essentials in Russia and donate the profits.
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
A vast number of Western firms have stopped doing business with Russia, and the handful of those that are still trading there have encountered a backlash from their employees in Ukraine and other eastern European countries, according to a report by Reuters.
This includes some Nestlé employees in Ukraine who quit over the Swiss food company's decision to keep trading in Russia, the publication reported, citing an internal email to executives by Marco Settembri, the head of Nestlé's European business.
He said that he was "saddened to hear that employees are resigning" and was "deeply concerned to hear of employees being bullied and threatened" on social media for staying at the company, per Reuters.
"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 Nestlé spokesperson told the publication.
The spokesperson said Nestlé had around 5,800 employees in Ukraine at the start of the war, but that many had since left the country. The company says it has been giving staff salary advances, money to support relocations, emergency care packages, legal and immigration advice, and offers of jobs in other companies operated by Nestlé. It says it has also converted part of a factory in Poland into accommodation for workers and their families who've crossed the border.
Nestlé still sells essentials in Russia
Western companies including McDonald's, Goldman Sachs, and PayPal have pulled out of Russia since it invaded Ukraine in late February.
Nestlé, which makes staples like Cheerios cereal, Gerber baby food and Nescafe coffee, dropped some of its Russian operations, including advertising, capital investments, and the flow of "non-essential imports and exports," but kept selling products in Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hit out at the company, accusing it of using "cheap PR" to defend its decision to continue business in Russia amid a "thirst for profit." Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that CEO Mark Schneider had shown "no understanding" during a conversation about Nestlé's decision to stay in Russia.
Some of the company's employees based in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lviv also sent Schneider an open letter on Nestlé's internal messaging board, saying staff felt "betrayed" by its continued operations in Russia, Reuters reported.
On 23 March, Nestlé said it would stop sales of many of its products in Russia, including those under the brands KitKat and Nesquik, but would continue selling essentials, such as baby food and medical nutrition.
"While we do not expect to make a profit in the country or pay any related taxes for the foreseeable future in Russia, any profit will be donated to humanitarian relief organisations," the company said. It made $1.82 billion (R26 billion) in Russian sales in 2021, or 2% of the company's total revenue.
Nestlé told Reuters all its activities related to its Russian business were now handled within the country, where it has seven factories and more than 7,000 staff.
"In (my team) we've stopped working with Russia and never want to work with them again," a Nestlé employee based in Lviv told Reuters.
Nestlé did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
It's not just Nestlé employees who are angry that their company has continued its Russian operations.
In March, around 130 employees at American food giant Mondelez based in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia sent a petition asking CEO Dirk Van de Put to stop all business in Russia, Reuters reported, citing screenshots of an internal social-media post. The staff said they "strongly oppose" Mondelez's decision to stay in Russia, adding that all taxes and salaries paid to the country "supply its army and kill even more Ukrainian people," per Reuters.
Mondelez European President Vinzenz Gruber responded to the post, saying: "We stand by our colleagues and not by their governments/country decisions," Reuters reported.