Certainly, the biggest news story of the year has been the dramatic and horrific invasion of Ukraine by Russia. This invasion was undertaken for illegitimate reasons and has resulted in an almost unbearable amount of pain for Ukrainian soldiers and citizens. The dismal news coming out of the region has forced countries, alliances, and even businesses to reassess their relationship with the clear aggressor in the war, Russia. Now, this reckoning has come to the Tech industry as well.
See who in Tech has taken a stand on the Russian invasion of Ukraine
One of the surprising outcomes of this stunning action by Russia is that it has served to unify many alliances that have previously been loosely drifting apart. Certainly, in the wake of the outbreak of war in Ukraine, NATO has pulled itself closer – tighter than it has been in years. The same could be said for the European Union, which also has closed ranks and come together with a new sense of purpose in speaking out against this hostile action by Putin’s Russia.
Nations around the world have quickly acted to pass stiff economic sanctions against Russia and its primary actors, a move that appears to have already impacted the Russian economy with the ruble at historic lows, the stock market closed, and inflation skyrocketing to 9.7%. Russia is quickly finding itself isolated from the vast majority of the world.
Businesses are Stepping Up Like Never Before to Cut Ties to Russia
And in another new and unusual development, businesses large and small have stepped forward to cut out any business relationships with Russia, clearly choosing to stand with Ukraine. The New York Times has reported on a long list of companies who have announced their decision to cease all business in and with Russia.
There were many consumer products companies like McDonalds, Coke, Pepsi, Adidas, Starbucks and the like closing operations in Russia. And certainly, Tech was a leader in stepping forward and pulling the plug on their Russian involvement. Big Tech players such as Apple, Google, Amazon Web Services – as well as Microsoft, IBM, Cogent, Lumen, Uber and more.
Tech Brands of All Shapes and Sizes are Getting Involved
Now tech brands at all levels are getting involved and taking a stand – including brands known very well to those of us in consumer electronics and custom integration. I recently sent out an email asking a wide assortment of tech brands whether they had, or were planning, to take a stand on their business dealings in or with Russia.
Perhaps as an indicator of how touchy political topics can be to businesses, the response was pretty low. I spoke with a few who expressed to me – off the record – how horrified they were and how they supported Ukraine but didn’t want to take a public position. Actually, I get it. But some companies did respond and here is what I learned.
“We are very concerned about the current situation in Russia and Ukraine. It’s heartbreaking to see so many impacted. We have suspended shipments to the region and we hope for a swift restoration of peace.”
Anonymous SMB Tech Company
I actually received quite a long perspective from a top leader of this small-to-medium-sized tech brand who requested anonymity (I’ll call them SMB) due to the sensitivity of this highly political topic. However, as an experienced international traveler, one of SMB’s executives spoke at length of the challenges of doing business with countries that don’t share our “democratic/Western ideals.”
“I believe permanent cultural and political change only comes from within and cannot be imposed by external forces. Internal change comes from the people of the nation not being happy with their lives, their leaders, and the culture they are imposing. The unhappiness usually takes a long time to reach a critical level or grows very incrementally. This is, primarily, because people, in general, do not like change.”
All things considered, SMB talked to their local distribution partner in Russia and realized that they shared the same outlook on the situation. “Our partner in Russia is firmly against what is happening, and we will continue to support them in any way we can.”
The New York Times reported yesterday that Sony “…said it had ‘suspended all software and hardware shipments’ to Russia, as well as operation of the PlayStation Store in the country.”
Call for Business Leaders
In a post on Medium (an online subscription-based publishing platform) published on March 5 titled Call for Business Leaders to Economically Disengage from Russian Industry, a group of tech industry executives sought signatories who would pledge to stop doing business with Russia or Russian nationals tied to Russian industries. The post was largely copied from one originally conceived on February 26 by individuals associated with the Life Sciences industry.
In addition to the co-authors, co-signers are asked specifically to:
- cease all sales of non-medical hardware, software, services (including support services) to Russia as well as Russian nationals with ties to Russian industries.
- reject investment from Russian funds.
- halt collaboration or service agreements with Russian companies.
- stop purchasing from vendors who continue to do business in Russia.
More Individually Focused than Company Focused
This appears to be more of a statement from individuals rather than necessarily the companies that they represent, although there were some top executives and principals from certain companies, so presumably, they speak for their organizations as well.
Co-authoring the post was: Nick Berry (CEO/Origin), Jeremy Burkhardt (Chairman/Origin), Alex Camara (CEO/AudioControl), Susan Cashen (Board Director and Advisor), Mark Cichowski (CEO/Clarity AV Int.), Joseph Kolchinsky (CEO/OneVision Resources).
As of this writing, there are a total of about 48 co-signers. Of this total, 21 of them work for OneVision Resource, the company of the post’s co-author Joseph Kolchinsky.
Other notable co-signers include: Charlie Kindel (President/Kindel, LLC), John Dorsey (CEO/SAVI Controls), Amanda Wildman (CEDIA Board Member, owner of TruMedia), Sean Hawley (CEO/Tech Automation), Chris Smith (Principal/TheCoTeam), John Galante (President/AE Ventures), Patrick McCarthy (Azione Unlimited), Alex Capecelatro (CEO/Josh.ai), Mitchell Klein (Executive Director/Z-Wave Alliance), J.C. Murphy (President/Savant Systems, LLC) and many more.
In looking through the list of co-signers, I’m pretty sure a fair number of them are not doing any business in Russia right now anyway. But, it’s the thought that counts.
You can see the entire Medium post here [subscription].
I particularly call your attention to Savant Systems, one of the companies that I had reached out to for a comment on their business with Russia. When asked, they told me that their co-signing of this pledge represented the company’s position.
So there you have it…Tech Takes a Stand on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.