Unilever's CEO pledges to reexamine Russia presence following backlash

By Sarah Parsons | Published: 15-Aug-2023

Hein Schumacher joined the owner of Dove, Tatcha and Hourglass as CEO in July

Unilever's new CEO Hein Schumacher has pledged to reexamine the company's Russian operations, after it was criticised for remaining in the country. 

The chief executive, who joined the owner of Dove and Tatcha in July, said he would look at the Russian business with a "fresh pair of eyes".  

Schumacher made the promise in a letter seen by The Telegraph to a Ukrainian war veteran who wrote to the boss of the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate in an attempt to convince the company to cease its presence in Russia. 

Unilever has previously been named an 'international sponsor of war' by the Ukrainian government for continuing its operations in Russia despite the conflict. 

"After Russia's full scale invasion of Ukraine, the company promised to suspend all imports and exports of its products to and from Russia, as well as halt all media and advertising spending," Ukraine's National Agency on Corruption Prevention  said in a statement.

"However, a year later, Unilever Russia's profits doubled from 4.8bn rubles (US$80m) in 2021 to more than 9.2bn rubles ($153m) last year. 

“In addition, thanks to the significant amount of profit obtained... [Unilever Russia] managed to increase the capital to 34.5bn rubles in 2022 from 25.3bn rubles in 2021."

The FMCG giant has previously defended its decision to remain in the country and said it would keep its "position under close review".

It has maintained that the decision to carry on selling "everyday food and hygiene products" to the Russian people is "the best option, both to avoid the risk of our business ending up in the hands of the Russian state, either directly or indirectly, and to help protect our people".

Unilever is not the only beauty giant to remain in Russia, Olay-owned P&G and L'Oréal have continued operating. 

However, many big consumer goods names have pulled out of the country including McDonald's and Coca-Cola. 

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