Mar 14, 2022 - Economy

Over 300 companies have exited Russia since invasion

Russian flag with a downward trend arrow

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The corporate pullout from Russia happened faster than anyone could have imagined, drawing comparisons to the wave of company disinvestment in South Africa in the 1980s.

Driving the news: Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine last month, more than 300 global companies announced some kind of withdrawal from the country, according to the tally kept by management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and his team at Yale.

  • The list is a who's who of the corporate world — from Amex to YouTube.

There were three waves of a corporate retreat, Sonnenfeld tells Axios.

  • First movers were driven by principle and employee outrage.
  • The next group was responding to the financial markets or consumer protests, fearing "backlash and boycotts."
  • Finally, the third group was anxious about getting trapped or "identified as being on the wrong side of history."

About 30 companies based outside Russia haven't said they'll withdraw, according to his list, which is updated continuously.

  • "There is still a group putting out smokescreen PR blather trying to have it both ways," Sonnenfeld said.

Flashback: Sonnenfeld and others are comparing the pullback to the mid-1980s divestment from apartheid South Africa.

  • This is going much faster. Back then company action "followed 30 years of activism and many companies did so grudgingly," said Paul Washington, executive director at the Conference Board.
  • Companies did eventually return to South Africa after Nelson Mandela was freed from prison and apartheid was dissolved.

Go deeper: Which global companies are abandoning Russia, and why

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