Three months after the start of the war in Ukraine, the list of large groups withdrawing from the Russian market continues to grow. The most recent, Dalkia, a subsidiary of EDF in energy services, and Starbucks coffees, in the wake of Renault, Société Générale or McDonald’s restaurants.
On the other hand, a number of French groups persist in choosing to remain in the country. This is the case of the Yves Rocher group, which produces cosmetics and sells them in Russia in 450 owned or franchised stores. The Russian market represents 15% of its turnover, which makes it the second of the group present in 115 countries.
No comments until September
contacted by The cross, the Yves Rocher group based in La Gacilly, Morbihan, declines to comment on this choice. It just indicates that “All teams fully mobilized on the ground during this period” and offers the“change again in september when those responsible will have more time”. This long delay suggests that Yves Rocher has already acknowledged the fact that the Russian military campaign in Ukraine could last several months, but he does not plan to change his stance until then.
In a March 16 press release posted on its website, the company explained its position. In condemning the war in Ukraine, she said: “We decided to keep our activity in Russia” Why “It is our duty to take care of our 630 employees as well as the more than 2,500 employees of our franchisees who work in Russia and are not responsible for the current situation”.
“Caring for all human beings”
The group said it froze its investments and advertising expenditures in the country. But he justified the decision to keep the stores open by recalling its status as a company with a mission, adopted in December 2019: “ Working for the common good,even in complex and unstable situations, is at the heart of our values. We must keep the course and care for all human beings in a spirit of brotherhood”He wrote.
The invocation of this status, in this context, may come as a surprise. Created in 2019 by the Pacte law, it was adopted by French companies whose ambition is to work for the good of society and the environment. The Yves Rocher group even asserted itself as a model in this area, to the point that its CEO, Bris Rocher, was commissioned in May 2021 by the government to write a report “on responsible corporate governance”.
The risk of financing the war
The group gave itself the raison d’etre of “reconnect people with nature”. His decision to stay in Russia doesn’t go directly against that goal, but it does question the meaning of companies with a mission.
“Being a company with a mission does not mean being irreproachable, nuance Blanche Segrestin, professor at Mines Paris and specialist in corporate governance. But this means that the company with a mission can be questioned about its statutory objectives, about the way it formulates and implements them; that the nature of the objectives can be the subject of debate and that the fulfillment of the objectives is subject to special control”. A committee, appointed by the company’s management, must assess the conformity of the decisions taken with the stated ambitions. As the law is recent, it is still difficult to measure the level of demand of the committees in question.
A group behind the lawsuits against Navalny
It is not the first time that the Yves Rocher group has been highlighted for its attitude in Russia. He has already been targeted by Russian opposition for being behind the accusation of opponent Alexei Navalny. The director of Yves Rocher’s Russian subsidiary had, in fact, filed a complaint in 2012 for ” defraud “ targeting a transport company in which Alexei Navalny and his brother were the main shareholders.
This complaint, already withdrawn, was then used by the Russian authorities to neutralize the opponent, condemning him to three and a half years in prison in 2014. It was also part of the reasons why he was again sentenced, on May 24, to nine years of imprisonment. prison.
Navalny’s lawyers counterattacked before French courts by filing a complaint against the Yves Rocher group for “slanderous denunciation”. But they were unsuccessful in the first instance and appealed.