Corporate Communications on Ukraine: Pros, Cons, & Considerations


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has quickly become not only a major international news story, but a call to action for all types of organizations across the world to publicly comment – and more. The list of corporations that have pulled out of the Russian market has grown considerably larger than those who are staying. Many Western corporations have issued statements, almost exclusively supportive of Ukrainian people and critical of the invasion. The pressure for companies to publicly announce their positions on the conflict has become intense.

Pros of Making a Statement

As executive teams consider their options, here are some important pros and cons to consider, as they weigh if, and then how, to communicate. A strong public statement can strengthen relationships with those employees, investors, customers and partners who share its perspective. As reflected in a recent UN General Assembly vote, in which 141 countries joined the US in condemning the invasion, public sentiment in the US and the West aligns with taking a proactive stance to denounce Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Another potential pro is that a statement provides a platform for announcing more substantive actions, such as making donations or halting product shipments to Russia, for example. Many constituents are likely to view these types of actions positively, helping to insulate the company from public criticism.

Why You Might Refrain

Any statement, however, has the potential to weaken relationships as well. Some companies may have constituents who view the act of making a statement on a politically charged topic to be inappropriate or simply unnecessary. Others, of course, may disagree with the company’s stance. Businesses that have Russia-based employees, partnerships, vendors, customers and other relationships will think twice before potentially alienating them. This could be true of companies with ties to other nations, such as India or China, who have been less willing to criticize Russia, and whose populations may view the war differently than their Western counterparts.

Another potential con is that a public statement may raise the bar for vocalization on other issues. Being outspoken on Russia could end up drawing criticisms of “inconsistency” for speaking out on this war or providing humanitarian assistance, for example, without doing the same for other conflicts. Similarly, constituents may be tempted to assert pressure for statements and actions on other sensitive or controversial issues.

Those companies that conduct business in Russia could invite public criticism, whether they make a statement or decide not to comment in public. Making a statement, though it carries risks with some constituents, provides an opportunity to communicate on how the company is managing the situation, both internally and externally.

Prepare Before You Release a Statement

Although for many companies the pros will outweigh the cons, there are still a few more considerations to deal with before releasing a statement.

Some companies rarely comment on social and geo-political issues. In these cases, any statement should note the irregularity of the comment, by saying, for example, “While it’s our general policy not to comment on social and/or political events, we thought we would put a small spotlight on the humanitarian crises in Ukraine.”

Any company making a statement should be prepared for feedback and engagement – particularly internally. This will be especially true for companies with ties to Russia or Ukraine. Even a strong statement against the war may prompt feedback from those who feel the company might still not be doing enough to stand against the invasion.

Before releasing a statement that includes any type of fundraising be sure to have researched where donations are being directed. Look for organizations that align with the company’s mission and values wherever possible. Donate to a range of organizations, and ensure that those organizations maximize the amount of funds that go to providing aid.

Internal Communication is Key

Internal communication is also important. Before going public, let employees and other internal stakeholders know what actions the company will be taking, and how they can help, should they choose to do so. Understand that this action is an opportunity to connect and engage. This is a time of considerable stress and anxiety across the globe. Circulation of information can help ease stress, improve morale, and also gently remind employees of corporate policies on information sharing and fundraising, to help ensure they remain mindful of overarching corporate policies.

Consider also opening internal discussion even further, with an internal town hall or information session, potentially featuring a subject-matter expert – or just a good discussion. Facilitating open discussion not only helps ease any existing tensions internally, but can actually help raise potential issues with your ultimate outward-facing messaging strategy. At the end of the day, making a statement is always wisest only after taking some time to listen to your audience first.