McDonald's is temporarily closing its 850 locations in Russia, in one of the most symbolic exits by a global corporation from the country in protest over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
In an email to employees and franchisees on Tuesday, McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski said the fast-food chain will pause all operations in Russia. He said the company will continue paying salaries to 62,000 people it employs there.
"Our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine," Kempczinski said. "At this juncture, it's impossible to predict when we might be able to reopen our restaurants in Russia."
Hundreds of companies have announced their exits from Russia in recent days. Among the most recent additions to the list are cosmetics company L'Oreal and car maker Ferrari. Russian users are also losing access to Netflix, Ikea stores and Apple products. Visa and Mastercard have restricted use by Russian holders.
Earlier Tuesday, Yum Brands, which runs KFC and Pizza Hut locations in Russia, also paused investment in the country. And on Monday, giant conglomerate Procter & Gamble cut back on its products and advertising in Russia.
A Yale professor tracks which companies are still doing business in Russia
As many companies continue to pull out of Russia, a Yale professor is tracking which companies have not curtailed operations in the country. Among them was McDonald's, which opened its first location in the Soviet Union in 1990 as a harbinger of the arrival of Western consumer culture.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for leadership studies, tells NPR that the list — which contains more than 200 companies — is a way to encourage corporations "to do the right thing" and to hold them accountable for continuing to engage with Russia.
Publishing the list allows companies to see that others are taking action amid the conflict; it's affirming, he said, and something that can make other companies feel better about the decision. That's what Sonnenfeld called the "carrot."
"The stick side is the public shaming of being on a category where they don't want to be," he said.
Sonnenfeld and his team have been tracking company withdrawals since the outbreak of war, he said. Companies such as Dell, Apple, Nike, General Motors, IBM and H&M were among the first to curtail operations in Russia, he said.
Some companies released ambiguous statements, which drove Sonnenfeld and his team to catalog the companies.
"We're shocked about what a catalytic effect an objective list has had in terms of either catalyzing some to move or clarifying positions," Sonnenfeld said. "We're very close to 300 now that have curtailed operations."
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