N. Peter Kramer ’s Weekly Column
Heineken is under fire. Last year, the famous brewery group led the way in announcing that it would leave Russia. Still it launched 61 new drinks. Heineken’s reputation as a company committed to corporate social responsibility has been torn to shreds.
Mid-February, when presenting its annual results, the top of the brewery group still gave the impression that activities in Russia were at a low ebb. But added that leaving the country was not easy, because the Russian government had introduced all kinds of rules that made it more difficult for foreign companies. It was immediately seen as an explanation why Heineken had not been able to hold its promise to end its Russian activities by the end of 2022, as the brewer had said in March last year. Heineken was then one of the first international concerns to announce leaving Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine.
Last week the research platform Follow The Money published that Heineken has introduced last year, on top of the 35 products it already had in Russia, no less than 61 new products. For example a new stout beer, an alternative to Guinness. The conclusion of Follow The Money: ‘Heineken breaks promise and still invests in Russia’.
Heineken tried to counter the criticism. Local employees were only running the company to avoid nationalisation by the Russian government, was one of the excuses. And, the 61 new drinks were not investments because no financing from he headquarters had been involved. That swelled the criticism even more. It is clear that Heineken didn’t take much action ‘to put their money where their mouth is’. An example of corporate hypocrisy. Cheers.