The week that Unilever’s new CEO started in his position, protesters have brought the wrong kind of attention to one of its brands. The Ukraine Solidarity Project erected a billboard outside Unilever’s global headquarters in London that highlighted its ongoing involvement in Russia by parodying Dove’s ad style.
The handheld billboard says Dove is “helping to fund Russia’s war in Ukraine”, and features wounded Ukrainian soldiers in white underclothing and the golden Dove logo transformed into a tank.
It claims that Unilever paid US$301 million in taxes to Russia last year.
The protest was timed for CEO Hein Schumacher’s start, as the group calls on him to withdraw from Russia. On Twitter the Ukraine Solidarity Project released an accompanying attack ad.
Did you know that one of world’s favourite beauty brands is helping fund Russia’s war in Ukraine? Yes, it’s @Dove, owned by @Unilever. Unilever paid an estimated $331 million in taxes to Russia in 2022. A kalibr missile costs $1 million. The math is simple.
Get out of Russia. pic.twitter.com/NnpICgI62h
— Ukraine Solidarity Project (@SolidarityUKR) July 3, 2023
The protest comes as Unilever is named an “international sponsor of war” by the Ukrainian government, currently the top of its list. A number of Unilever executives were specifically named on the page.
A statement from Ukraine’s National Agency of Corruption Prevention reads, “Unilever pledged to suspend all imports and exports of its products to/from, as well as halt all media and advertising spending. However, during the year of the war, Unilever Russia’s profits doubled from €56 million in 2021 to more than €108 million last year.”
Unilever’s position on Russia
Earlier in the year Unilever commented on its operations in Russia.
“We continue to condemn the war in Ukraine as a brutal and senseless act by the Russian state,” reads the statement from February. The company says that it only continues to sell locally manufactured food and hygiene products in Russia, having halted all exports and imports.
It justifies this decision by presenting the options of closing or selling the business as being less safe for its workers, as well as chances that the business could “end up in the hands of the Russia state”.
Shell has also been a target of scrutiny this week for continued operations in Russia after pledging in 2022 to exit the market.