On the eve of the Ukraine war, Russia was believed to be unstoppable. A superior military powered by an economy backed by billions in petrodollars.

But then, the Ukrainians stepped up. Western democracies stepped up. And many of the world’s leading brands stepped up.

Kudos to the companies who put aside the financial benefits of doing business in Russia for the sake of doing the right thing. The list includes:

  • Adidas
  • Airbus
  • Amazon Web Services (sort of)
  • American Airlines
  • American Express
  • Apple
  • BP
  • Bain
  • Bloomberg
  • Boeing
  • Boston Consulting Group
  • British American Tobacco
  • Burger King
  • Canada Goose
  • Carlsberg
  • Caterpiller
  • Citigroup
  • Coca-Cola
  • Cogent
  • DHL
  • Deloitte
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Disney
  • EY
  • Ericsson
  • Exxon Mobil
  • Fedex
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Google (no advertising)
  • H&M
  • Heineken
  • Hilton
  • Hitachi
  • Hyatt
  • IBM
  • IKEA (mostly)
  • Intel
  • KPMG
  • LG Electronics
  • Little Caesars
  • Lumen
  • Mars
  • Mastercard
  • McDonald’s
  • McKinsey & Company (sort-of)
  • Microsoft
  • Nestle
  • Netflix
  • Nike
  • Nokia
  • PWC
  • PepsiCo
  • Philip Morris
  • Renault
  • Sabre
  • Shell
  • Societe Generale
  • Sony
  • Starbucks
  • Stellantis
  • TJX
  • UPS
  • Uber
  • Unilever
  • Uniqlo
  • United Airlines
  • Visa
  • Warner Brothers
  • Western Union
  • Yum Brands

The result: a near-total blackout of world-class companies and brands doing business in Russia, with massive damage to their economy. Brands are becoming the new NATO, acting in concert for a more peaceful world and free society.

Business involvement in world affairs is nothing new. The British East India Company drove much of Great Britain's foreign policy–and destructive exploitation of large parts of Asia–for centuries. In the twentieth century, Coca-Colonialization–the idea Coca-Cola and other popular western brands, like Levi’s, would spread around the world to promote democratic values–was a central part of America’s Cold War strategy.

But the large number of companies involved in action against Russia–and in such a short period of time–is indeed unprecedented. Surely some of these moves stem from genuine ethical concern on the part of the CEO’s of the world’s largest companies. But it also purports to a new world order, where brands cannot succeed unless their values align with those of their customers and employees.

Call it another effect of the pandemic: a reassessment of people’s life and relationship to the world. The result is a significant shift in the effect of a brand’s values in people’s purchasing decisions. Worldwide, 70% of people now say they tend to buy products from brands that reflect their values. We see a similar shift in the companies people work for: the majority of Americans now say that they would quit their job if the company they work for did not align to their values.

This consumer sentiment, coupled with social media’s ability to amplify, celebrate and shame the companies that do or do not align with popular sentiment, means big business is now forced to act. And so once the ball starts rolling and it’s clear to companies that consumers view a particular business decision as unacceptable, the pressure to conform is almost too great not to avoid. After all, what execute wants their company to be on list like this:

A Partial List of Companies that Refused to Pull Out of Russia And Therefore Support Dictatorships, Oppression And War Crimes (As of April 18, 2022 - Courtesy of The Yale School of Management; their list is updated daily.)

  • Aalberts
  • Alibaba
  • Amgen
  • Asus
  • Carter’s / Oshkosh
  • Check Point Software
  • Emirates Airlines
  • International Paper
  • Koch Industries
  • Lacoste
  • Lenovo
  • Qatar Airways
  • Riot Games
  • Sun Pharma
  • Swiss Krono
  • Tata Consultancy Services
  • Tencent
  • Toyota Tsusho
  • Turkish Airways
  • UnionPay
All of this means: brands may be the new NATO, but it is we consumers, and the power we have to vote with our pocketbook and voice complaints online, are the ones with the real power to affect change. Today Russia; hopefully global warming is next.