Finally, Heineken has acknowledged its debts. Even though the beer multinational primarily passed on its responsibility to its subsidiary in Russia, it has now offered an official apology. Heineken had, although admitted afterwards, granted permission to launch 61 new products in Russia. The reason? Heineken wanted to “take its responsibility”. The company explains that it had no other option than to launch the products, because otherwise, according to Heineken, the subsidiary might have gone under; something that is punishable under the Russian flag. Besides, Heineken argues, we cannot leave our employees out in the Siberian cold, can we?
It is striking that Heineken appeals to taking responsibility. And Heineken is not alone in taking this action. Other Dutch companies such as Philips, JDE Peet’s and ING have demonstrated similar actions and reasoning. For instance, Philips finds its decision to stay active in Russia responsible, because it only supplies medical equipment. JDE Peet’s feels the same way because it delivers “necessary goods”, and ING wants that the Russians in particular, pay off their loans.
In other words, all previously mentioned companies state that they would rather not be active in Russia, but that they have no other choice because of their “responsibility”. How vending necessary goods such as razors, coffee and tea contributes to this, is questionable. Besides, it can be assumed that there are numerous other reasons why staying active in Russia is not the most responsible option.
What being responsible exactly entails is debatable. In any way, a number of things can without a doubt be classified as irresponsible. Financing a war against a sovereign country is one of them. Calling out that you’re acting out of public interest, while simultaneously filling your own pockets, Sywert van Lienden style, is most definitely classified as irresponsible.
Above all, taking responsibility means dealing with the consequences of your own actions, and the actions that you take because of this. Even when your company does not gain profits from Russia, as Heineken claims. So, if the consequence of the added economic value of a company is that it financially contributes to the Russian war chest through the payment of taxes, then this company should provide compensation to Ukraine.
Morally justifying the actions of Dutch companies in Russia is without a doubt a difficult task. But, do you want to start taking responsibility as a company? Then please deposit the equivalent of the paid Russian tax and gained profits to a bank account that legitimately supports Ukraine. For example, to an NGO which supplies the Ukrainians with actual necessary goods.