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Shell and Unilever: Partners in Profit, Supporters of Bloodshed

Posted by John Donovan July 5, 2023

In a stunning display of corporate callousness, Shell and Unilever have come under fire for their continued operations in Russia, even after the country’s invasion of Ukraine. These greedy giants seem to prioritize profits over principles, turning a blind eye to the blood money they accumulate.

Despite Shell’s pledge to withdraw from the Russian energy market, the company has shamelessly continued to trade Russian gas, making a mockery of its supposed commitment. Analysis from the campaign group Global Witness reveals that Shell was involved in nearly an eighth of Russia’s shipborne gas exports in 2022. Oleg Ustenko, an adviser to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, rightly accuses Shell of accepting “blood money” that directly supports Russia’s brutal aggression against Ukraine.

Shell conveniently defends its actions by citing “long-term contractual commitments” and claiming compliance with sanctions and laws. However, these hollow justifications cannot conceal the fact that Shell’s trading choices actively contribute to the suffering of the Ukrainian people.

Unilever, the maker of Dove soap and Cornetto ice cream, faces similar criticism for its continued presence in Russia. The Ukrainian government has labelled Unilever an “international sponsor of war,” pointing out that the company’s financial contributions to the Russian economy indirectly fund the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Unilever’s seemingly innocent products take on a darker meaning when one realizes that the profits from their sales could potentially fuel the launch of missiles or purchase military equipment.

Both Shell and Unilever have amassed vast fortunes from their operations in Russia, with Shell reporting record profits of £32.2 billion last year. However, the moral bankruptcy of their actions is undeniable. The Moral Rating Agency (MRA) has called on Unilever CEO Hein Schumacher to “do the moral thing” and withdraw the company from the Russian market, highlighting the hypocrisy of Unilever’s previous criticisms of the invasion while still profiting from the Russian economy.

Shell’s ongoing trade in Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) has prompted calls for the establishment of a repair fund for war-torn Ukraine. Mark Dixon, the founder of the MRA, passionately argues that the billions of dollars accumulated by Shell from its Russian activities should be dedicated to repairing the damage caused by Putin’s aggression.

Shell’s claim of compliance with sanctions is a feeble attempt to obscure the moral hazard and downplay its support for the Russian economy. While governments grapple with the difficult trade-offs between pressuring Russia and ensuring energy supplies, Shell and Unilever continue to prioritize their bottom lines over human lives and the well-being of an entire nation.

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