If World War 3 is already here, what can companies do to help end it?

Published on: 3 March 2022

Veteran Russian watcher Fiona Hill said in an interview when asked if we were on the brink of a World War III, "We’re already in it. We have been for some time". Stark words but if companies play their parts now, there is hope. Hill called for a temporary suspension of business activity with Russia and said that all companies needed to make a decision. We think that decision needs to be made now..

The interview with Fiona Hill about her views on the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a chilling interview to read. Hill, whose integrity during the Trump era and experience in Russian relations has earned both respect and credibility, is not to be ignored. Neither is the very sound advice she had for companies on what to do about it. She called for all to suspend business activity with Russia for the duration of hostilities. 

"It’s not too late to turn Putin back"

Hill qualified that statement with "it’s a job not just for the Ukrainians or for NATO — it’s a job that ordinary Westerners and companies can assist in important ways once they grasp what’s at stake."

She further stated that sanctions would not be enough and that a global temporary suspension of business activity with Russia was needed. "Just as we wouldn’t be having a full-blown diplomatic negotiation for anything but a ceasefire and withdrawal while Ukraine is still being actively invaded, so it’s the same thing with business. Right now you’re fueling the invasion of Ukraine. So what we need is a suspension of business activity with Russia until Moscow ceases hostilities and withdraws its troops."

When asked specifically what ordinary companies should do, her response was clear: companies needed to make a decision. Any company claiming to be taking ESG seriously should make action on Russia a priority NOW. "If Western companies, their pension plans or mutual funds, are invested in Russia they should pull out. Any people who are sitting on the boards of major Russian companies should resign immediately. Not every Russian company is tied to the Kremlin, but many major Russian companies absolutely are, and everyone knows it. "

Further, we need to be asking our suppliers to take action too. 

"this is also a full-spectrum information war"

Hill explained that what happens in a Russian all-of-society war is that you soften up the enemy, using homeland media and leaders to do your job for you in destabilising your target. Looking back it is easier to see that the invasion of Ukraine we are seeing now is based on many years of build-up activity of the full-spectrum-information-war kind. 

Companies can also implement trade sanctions much faster than nations can mandate them. It may also be prudent to find alternative suppliers now to ensure resilience of their own businesses. 

In the UK we, tiscreport.org, are working as hard as we can to make UK sanctions data easier to use for all companies to check their suppliers for connections to the Kremlin. They can ask their suppliers to do the same, which will help scale impact exponentially. We will use any voluntary contributions given to fund making further data available (potentially connected subsidiaries, potentially connected directors) to help take more targeted action. We ask that tech companies considering doing the same thing in their countries get in touch so we can coordinate.

If the climate crisis hasn't already spurred companies on in becoming independent of oil and gas, then this will.

If there was ever a time for a corporate resistance, it is now..