Nestle is under pressure from its Russian customers to pull out of the country, and more than 7,000 Nestle employees in Russia could be conscripted for the Ukraine War.
The Russian food giant refused to confirm whether it would intervene in order to prevent staff from being sent to Ukraine to fight.
Unilever, a competitor of , has admitted that it will allow Russian staff to conscript.
The Swiss company said that it closely monitors developments in Russia, and will “act to safeguard” the welfare of its employees as well as “protect their basic rights”.
Nestle refused to comment further when asked if it would stop conscripting its employees.
Russian law requires that any company in the country allows its workers to be conscripted if they are called up.
Nestle and Unilever were among the few Western companies that have remained in Russia since the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine.
Both companies have reduced their operations in the country, claiming that they provide vital goods to people who aren’t involved in the conflict.
Nestle continues to sell essential and basic food. According to reports, Russian supermarkets sell chocolate bars, Nescafe and Purina pet foods, as well as Bystrow cereals, Purina, Nescafe.
As the conflict in Ukraine continues, Western business is increasingly under pressure to leave Russia.
Valeriia Voshchevska of the Ukraine Solidarity Project (a campaign group) said: “Companies gamble with their reputation and the lives of their employees by staying in Ukraine.
It’s different from operating in another country. It’s like operating in a place that has thrown all rules and laws out the window.
Reginaldo Ecclissato is Unilever’s chief of business operations and supply chains. He said that running its Russian operations with strict restrictions was better than selling the business to gain a benefit for the Kremlin or shutting down the business and having the Russian government take over the operations.
Eddy Hargreaves is an equity research analyst with wealth manager Investec. He said that this defense was becoming increasingly implausible.
Mr Hargreaves stated: “These arguments don’t really hold up now, as it doesn’t stop the Russians from doing whatever they like.”
He noted that, under a decree targeting companies from “unfriendly countries”, the Russian government expropriated assets belonging to Carlsberg and Danone in the last week.
Mr Hargreaves claimed that Unilever and Nestle, among other companies, are “blackmailed” into conscripting their employees, because they will be closed down or their assets confiscated if they don’t.
He said: “By continuing on, they would risk more in terms of reputation in the global market than what they could save in short-term monetary terms by continuing in Russia.
“At the time, they cannot really say that they are safeguarding their employees’ or their well-being any more.”
Nestle’s spokesman stated: “Since Ukraine entered the war, we have taken the actions that we promised to take last year regarding our operations in Russia and we have drastically reduced our portfolio to the country in order to refocus on our efforts to continue to provide essential and basic food for the locals.
“We will continue to closely follow developments in Russia and take action to protect the rights and welfare of our employees.” Our employees in Russia are essential workers, given that the food industry is critical to our business.
“Of Course, we fully comply with all applicable international Sanctions on Russia.”