Great ResignationClimate ChangeLeadershipInflationUkraine Invasion

To help Ukraine, business should continue to stay out of Russia—and speed up the transition to clean energy

April 22, 2022, 4:01 AM UTC
Demonstrators hold Ukrainian flags on Maidan Square in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 9, 2022. "In a moment like this—a moment that has shocked the world and awakened our common humanity—trusted leaders have a moral obligation to lead," the authors write.
(Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The B Team is a global collective of business and civil society leaders advocating a better way of doing business for people and the planet. This week, several B Team leaders, including Richard Branson of Virgin, IKEA’s Jesper Brodin, and former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, issued a statement of principle in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Here is the full text of that statement.

Statement of principle on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine

Business leaders aim for their companies to prosper, but we mustn’t forget the order of things: Peace promotes stability. Stability makes space for opportunity. Opportunity builds prosperity.

Now is not the time for neutrality. Russia’s invasion is unprovoked and unacceptable. Evidence of atrocities committed by Russian troops on Ukrainian civilians, including women and children, is mounting.

We believe in a society that safeguards basic rights, upholds the rules-based international order and embraces our common humanity. Russia’s actions threaten this kind of society.

We value humanity; human lives are being destroyed. We value freedom; Russia’s actions threaten freedom everywhere. We value opportunity and shared prosperity; the instability wrought by this war endangers both on a global scale.

Beyond values, here’s another reason why business leaders cannot afford to be silent: Business is the most trusted institution. Today, societal leadership is seen as a core function of business. Our customers expect it; our employees demand it.

In a moment like this—a moment that has shocked the world and awakened our common humanity—trusted leaders have a moral obligation to lead.

Global companies by and large have condemned Russia’s actions and rushed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of impacted employees. Hundreds have withdrawn or suspended operations and investment in Russia. Several businesses are going further, providing support and needed services to Ukrainian refugees and their families. Regrettably, some companies are yet to follow this course of action.

It’s right to express outrage. It’s wise to avoid complicity. It’s good to try and improve a horrible situation.

Still, we can go further; our values compel us. Business has a role to play in raising the entry hurdles to unprovoked armed conflict so that no country dares take the chance again.

We will only consider resuming suspended business and investment activities in Russia when hostile operations cease and peace is restored. In the meantime, we continue to support on-the-ground humanitarian efforts.

This moment is a reckoning for leaders everywhere, especially in Europe. What is obvious is not always easy. Ending Europe’s dependence on Russian oil, gas and coal will not be achieved overnight, but it must be the urgent goal we set for ourselves—governments and industry alike.

This unspeakable tragedy underlines the necessity to dramatically accelerate a just transition to clean energy—to preserve our environment, strengthen geopolitical security and defend human rights. If not now, when?

Signed,

Jesper Brodin, CEO, Ingka Group (IKEA); chair, The B Team

Sharan Burrow, general secretary, International Trade Union Confederation; vice-chair, The B Team

Sir Richard Branson, founder, Virgin Group; co-founder, The B Team

Jochen Zeitz, president, CEO & chair, Harley-Davidson, Inc.; co-founder, The B Team

Ester Baiget, president & CEO, Novozymes

Oliver Bäte, CEO, Allianz

Kathy Calvin, former president & CEO, UN Foundation

David Crane, former CEO, NRG Energy

Emmanuel Faber, former CEO & chair, Danone; chair; International Sustainability Standards Board

Christiana Figueres, founding partner, Global Optimism; former executive secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Mats Granryd, director general, GSMA

André Hoffmann, vice chair, Roche Holding AG

Arianna Huffington, founder & CEO, Thrive Global

Dr. Mo Ibrahim, founder, Celtel; founder & chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation

Ilham Kadri, CEO & president, Solvay

Yolanda Kakabadse, former president, World Wildlife Fund International

Joe Kenner, president & CEO, Greyston

Isabelle Kocher, former CEO, Engie

Van Jones, founder, Dream Corps

Andrew Liveris, chair emeritus & former CEO, Dow Chemical

Hiro Mizuno, UN Special Envoy on Innovative Finance and Sustainable Investments; former chief investment officer, Government Pension Investment Fund of Japan

Jean Oelwang, founding CEO & president, Virgin Unite

Torben Möger Pedersen, CEO, PensionDanmark

Paul Polman, former CEO, Unilever; co-author, Net Positive

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland; chair, The Elders

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, chair & CEO, Chobani; founder, Tent Partnership for Refugees

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