The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo have joined the exodus of international companies shutting down operations in Russia because of the war in Ukraine, suspending their businesses in the country amid mounting public pressure on corporations to punish Moscow.
Coca-Cola announced its decision in a three-sentence statement on Tuesday, saying: “Our hearts are with the people who are enduring unconscionable effects from these tragic events in Ukraine. We will continue to monitor and assess the situation as circumstances evolve.”
A statement from Coca-Cola’s top rival, PepsiCo, followed minutes later, saying sales of its soft drink brands would be suspended in Russia. PepsiCo is also shutting down its capital investments and advertising in Russia, but the company said its sales of such “daily essentials” as milk and baby formula will continue for humanitarian reasons.
PepsiCo noted that it entered the Russian market at the height of the Cold War and “helped create common ground between the United States and the Soviet Union.” However, the company added, “given the horrific events occurring in Ukraine, we are announcing the suspension of the sale of Pepsi-Cola and our global beverage brands in Russia.”
By keeping the food side of its business operating, PepsiCo said it will support the livelihoods of its 20,000 Russian employees and the 40,000 agricultural workers in its Russian supply chain. “My heart goes out to all those who are caught in the middle of this deadly conflict,” CEO Ramon Laguarta said. “As it so often does, war is falling hardest on the innocent. War is never the answer, and we join those calling for a speedy, peaceful resolution.”
The statements came just hours after US fast-food giant McDonald’s announced that it was temporarily shutting down all of its outlets in Russia. Like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s hinted at the potential for additional steps, saying it would monitor the situation to determine whether more measures are required.
Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and McDonald’s are among multinational corporations that have faced increasing public pressure to quit Russia over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The companies have faced public criticism, threats of boycotts and pressure from investors to halt operations in Russia.
Hundreds of Western companies have already withdrawn from Russia. While some hope to reopen their Russian businesses at some point, others have pulled up stakes permanently. For instance, major oil companies Exxon Mobil, BP and Shell have abandoned billions of dollars in Russian assets.
Coca-Cola soft drinks were first introduced in Russia in 1979, and the company started a major push into the country in 1991. It has large bottling operations across the country. In fact, its biggest Eastern European plant is in the Rostov region. The company also has been a sponsor of major events in Russia, such as the 2018 World Cup and the 2015 Winter Olympics in Sochi.