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Consumer boycott of Russia, Russian products and Russian companies

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many people are asking: how effective is boycotting Russia? What are the latest updates on the boycott? And how can I support the boycott?

Here we look at:

  • Updates on the Russia boycott
  • What action different companies are taking
  • How you can support the boycott
  • How the boycott of Russia started
  • Criticisms of the boycott
  • The effectiveness of boycotts
  • What approach Ethical Consumer takes to the Russia boycott

How the boycott of Russia started

The Ukrainian government called for a Russia boycott

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24th 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for an international trade embargo. On Monday March 7th, speaking in a video address, Zelensky said: “If the invasion continues and Russia has not abandoned its plans against Ukraine, then a new sanctions package is needed…”

This includes “a boycott of Russian exports, in particular the rejection of oil and oil products from Russia.” He also said that Russia should also not receive goods and services from abroad.

Zelensky continues to call on international companies to sever ties with Russia.

On 15 March Oleg Ustenko, economic adviser to President Zelensky, told the New York Times “We’re talking about supplying Russia with bloody money that they’re using to feed a military machine that is killing my people [...] We need a full embargo, a full boycott. All Russian ports must be closed.”

Updates on the Russia boycott

How is the Russia boycott affecting the price of oil?

Though fuel prices were already rising before the invasion of Ukraine, the sanctions countries around the world have placed on Russia have caused prices to increase more.

The UK and EU look set to phase out the majority of Russian oil by the end of 2022. The US has completely banned Russian oil imports.

While the UK only imports 6% of its crude oil from Russia, this global boycott of Russian oil is causing oil prices to rise across the globe.

Sporting and cultural boycott of Russia

Russian tennis players were banned from Wimbledon 2022.

At least 30 international sporting federations have joined the boycott including FIFA, football's global governing body, which has suspended all Russian teams from international competition until further notice.

In addition, a wide range of education, science and research collaborations with Russian institutions have been paused or otherwise affected.

Eurovision banned Russian artists from participating, and the Cannes Film Festival barred entry to Russian filmmakers who had ties to the government. The Royal Collection, held in trust by the Queen, withdrew permission for the Kremlin to display its sword collection.

New initiatives are also springing up

One example is the ‘Moral Ratings Agency’ (MRA). This London-based organisation was created following the invasion. It says “The focus of the MRA in the future will be to show the moral behaviour of individual companies on a specific critical issue or involvement with a particular country harming the world or its own people.”

The MRA is looking at what companies have done since the invasion, at the scale of ‘sacrifice’ the company's action results in, and the power the company holds (so the economic impact its actions have). It also highlights companies that claim they have cut ties with Russia but in fact are continuing with some activities or failing to follow through with promises.

Russian flag with three horizontal stripes, white on top, blue in middle, red on bottom

What action are companies taking on the Russia boycott?

Although some consumer boycott hashtags (#boycottcocacola) have briefly flared into existence, companies have, by and large, chosen to leave long before any direct consumer economic impact has had time to make itself felt. 

Concerted pressure by mainstream western news outlets, combined with daily assaults on social media, has left few companies wanting to debate the merits of staying behind publicly. Several companies joined the list of companies suspending operations in Russia following boycott calls after they initially failed to speak out, such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola and Uniqlo (who originally tried to argue that its clothing was 'a necessity').

Companies continue to be targeted by boycott campaigns due to not withdrawing from Russia. 

The Yale School of Management has kept an up-to-date list of companies that have withdrawn from Russia.

According to the list, as of 4 July 2022, a total of 305 companies have completely withdrawn from Russia, including:

  • Airbnb
  • Asda
  • Asos
  • BlackRock
  • BP
  • eBay
  • Netflix
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Spotify

497 companies have temporarily suspended operations with Russia while specifying that they are keeping options open for return, including:

  • Adidas
  • Airbnb
  • Amazon
  • Disney
  • H&M
  • L’Oreal
  • Lush
  • Papa John’s

And a further 168 companies are said to be ‘reducing’ their current operations in Russia, including:

  • Adobe
  • Bacardi
  • Bosch
  • Mars
  • Microsoft
  • Pepsi
  • Spotify
  • Tetra Pak
  • Whirlpool

Some 160 companies are ‘buying time’, so holding off on new investments or developments, such as:

  • Aviva
  • Cargill
  • Colgate-Palmolive
  • Danone
  • Hilton
  • HSBC
  • Lenovo
  • Nestle
  • Subway
Anti war demo about Russian invasion of Ukraine with various placards, one visible says Stop Putin
Image by Katie Godowski from Pexels

How can you support the boycott of Russia?

  1. Get in touch with the companies listed above asking them to take stronger actions (for example on Twitter).
  2. Stay up-to-date with the boycott campaign websites below

Boycott campaigns

On March 9th a new website was launched to list companies taking action and those not. 

However, it appears that this list may not be up to date as it lists companies such as Toyota as having taken no action when in fact it has suspended operations in Russia. The website is also calling on western firms to stop advertising on Russian state TV. 

In March 2022 the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) similarly called on brands to “reconsider” their media and marketing investments in Russia. The WFA says that it polled its members and of the 31 global brand owners that responded (representing a total of $43bn in global ad spend), three quarters had reallocated, reduced or cut spending in Russia altogether.

On March 10th a new website was launched listing full details of the 100 financial institutions most heavily entangled in Russian oil and gas, at

Its ranking appears to be based on data from November 2021 and February 2022, so some of the companies may have already pulled out of Russia. For example, the Putin100 website lists BlackRock as a major investor, whereas the Yale list (see above) says BlackRock has fully withdrawn and curtailed “Russian access to capital markets”. 

Over 1m people have signed an Avaaz petition linked to on the Putin100 website calling on EU leaders, world governments, and CEOs of major finance firms to stop doing business with Russian fossil fuel companies.

Criticisms of the boycott

While the response to boycott calls has been significant, it has faced criticism.

1) A false sense of achievement

Patrick Cockburn argued in iNews that sanctions “give a false sense of achievement which is largely illusory”. He argues that while they “inflict collective punishment on entire populations” the “least affected are invariably the country’s leadership”. 

Others however, argue that sanctions can have a powerful impact, such as Anita Ramasastry at the School of Law at the University of Washington.

2) Ordinary civilians pay the price?

One criticism is that the impacts of companies exiting Russia upon ordinary people has not been fully considered. Some argue that more energy needs to be put into thinking about what sorts of economic activity leads to bad outcomes for ordinary people, and which sorts overcome these outcomes.

Measures such as Visa and Mastercard leaving the country could also cut off Russians who are critical of the invasion, leaving them without access to funds, according to one journalist who told the BBC “thousands of people, including not only journalists but opposition activists and even common people who are scared of Putin's regime and are running from war will be cut from their little money.”

Pharmaceutical products are for example important for the general health of the Russian population so it could be considered important that these do not fully withdraw from Russia. 

Cockburn, a journalist in the inews, argues that when Iraq faced sanctions these led to “children dying in hospitals because there were not enough oxygen cylinders”. He says “People outside Iraq wrongly felt that economic warfare must be kinder than the military variety”.

This assertion appears to fly in the face of overwhelming evidence that, in the main, economic ‘warfare’ is considerably kinder than dropping bombs on people. It has been a core understanding of and the basis for the international architecture for peace that is now manifest in the UN institutions. Economic measures are rightly encouraged as a first resort in cases of conflict.

Some still argue that for the sake of ordinary citizens, blanket sanctions should not be used and instead more consideration should be paid to advisors and organisations that advise on how businesses should operate or responsibly withdraw from conflict zones. Targeting ‘oligarchs’ certainly appears to be the focus of the rhetoric of western governments to date.

Meanwhile Mark B. Taylor of the Institute for Human Rights and Business has expressed concerns that current sanctions could appear to be rooted in nationalist ‘security’ ideology like that used to justify the ‘War on Terror’, as opposed to equivalent measures which could be rooted in humanitarian concerns.  

3) It can appear uncritical of the Ukrainian government

The Glastonbury 2022 festival was opened with a video recording of Ukrainian president Zelensky calling for people around the world to put pressure on politicians to “join us in defending freedom and truth”.

Yet the Ukrainian regime is still criticised, for example by Amnesty International, for a range of reasons. According to Amnesty, the president and 37 other Ukrainian politicians have benefitted from offshore companies. Amnesty says “impunity for torture and other ill-treatment in general” remains endemic in Ukraine, and says that allegations against law enforcement officers of abuse were dealt with slowly and ineffectively.

The idea that we should boycott Russia to support Ukraine could therefore be seen to be overly uncritical of Ukraine, whitewashing the country’s own internal problems when it comes to transparency and human rights.

The effectiveness of boycotts in general

Boycotts are a vitally important extension of our formal democracy.

Well-targeted boycotts can exert economic pressure on some of the biggest companies to change their practices, and have seen repeated and significant successes.

They can also be a significant means of expressing moral condemnation and solidarity with workers or communities around the world.

Examples of successful boycotts can be found in our article on historical successes.

What approach does Ethical Consumer take?

Since 2003, Russia has been on Ethical Consumer's list of oppressive regimes, and companies trading there have long received lower ethical scores in our shopping guides on the basis that doing so gives the regime funds and legitimacy.

Ethical Consumer has also maintained and published a list of ongoing consumer boycott calls in the UK since 1989. In July 2022, ongoing country boycott campaigns were in place for Israel, China, Turkey and Russia.

Because our resources are limited, we can only choose a few to actively campaign on and support. For most of them we provide the information for individuals or organisations to decide whether to join according to their own conscience.