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Delaware employers begin severing Russian ties

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Corteva has announced that it is completely withdrawing from Russia, which prior to the war was a significant market for its seeds and pesticides. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

More than two months after the war in Ukraine began, many of the multinational companies that have sizable Delaware workforces are rethinking their presence in Russia.

The chemical maker Chemours and agriscience company Corteva were among the first to announce that they were suspending or scaling back their sales and operations following the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Now, in an example of corporate leaders leveraging modern diplomatic powers, several have begun leaving the Russian market entirely.

As the war in Ukraine has dragged on, more multinational companies are deciding to withdraw completely from the Russian market. | PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIPEDIA/STATE EMERGENCY SERVICES OF UKRAINE

The number of companies suspending operations in Russia at least temporarily has grown to more than 1,000, led by corporate titans like Apple, Google, Amazon, Disney, Shell, BP, Mastercard, Visa, and more, according to a database maintained by Yale University. Some of those companies have also acted against Belarus, a Russian ally that allowed the invasion’s staging to occur on its border.

Former DuPont spinoff Corteva AgriScience has one of the most complicated situations among the crisis, with more than 275 employees in Ukraine working for six subsidiaries, including at a $56 million production facility in Stasi, about 75 miles west of the battle-stricken city of Kharkiv. It operated that site for nearly a decade.

Corteva, which designated Indianapolis as its new headquarters earlier this year after long being based near Wilmington, also has a known large sales market in Russia though. It sells herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides to Russian farmers, as the country is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers.

In March, Corteva told Delaware Business Times that it had paused all new commercial sales activities in Russia and Belarus, while at the same time continuing to evaluate and working to support food production in the region. On April 28, the company announced that it was taking further action by withdrawing from Russia entirely, including production and business activities.

“Our priorities remain the safety of our employees and global food security. Since the onset of this tragic war, we have taken all possible action to support and protect our Ukrainian colleagues and their families, our customers, and the communities in which we operate, including through direct and indirect aid to address the immediate humanitarian needs,” the company said in a statement. “We have also put in place direct action to help assure as normal as possible 2022 growing season in Ukraine … Corteva joins with many others around the world in advocating for peace.”

Because Ukraine and Russia represent a significant portion of the world’s wheat supply, Corteva said it was donating seeds to Ukraine, Africa, and the Middle East region for the 2023 growing season to lessen the impact on global food production.

Joining Corteva in withdrawing completely from Russia is Philadelphia-based FMC Corporation, an agriscience and chemical maker that employs several hundred at the Stine-Haskell Research Center in Newark. It is idling and closing a crop protection packaging and formulation plant in Cheboksary, Russia, about 420 miles east of Moscow.

Earlier, FMC suspended new capital investments, marketing, and advertising; discontinued R&D activities; stopped imports of all products; and suspended development of new products and business in Russia. 

“However, increasing reports of potential war crimes, human rights abuses and other atrocities cannot be ignored. Our values as a company and the realities of unprecedented sanctions no longer allow FMC to operate and grow our business in Russia,” the company said in an April 14 announcement. “FMC condemns the invasion and war, and we join calls to end the violence immediately.”

German chemical company BASF, which employs 150 at plants in Newport, has also announced plans to withdraw from Russia and Belarus. It suspended business in both countries on March 3 and announced April 27 that its board of executive directors voted to wind down all operations there by the beginning of July.

“BASF strongly condemns the Russian attack on Ukraine and the violence against the civilian population,” the company said in a statement.

BASF reportedly employed 684 people in Russia and Belarus and will support them until the end of the year. Exempt from its decision is business to support food production, as the war risks triggering a global food crisis.

Not every company has completely cut ties with Russia though.

Delaware giant DuPont announced March 15 that it was suspending business operations in Russia and Belarus, saying, “The safety and security of our employees and their families remain our highest priority and we are doing all we can to assist our colleagues in the region. We remain hopeful that a peaceful resolution to this conflict can be achieved quickly.”

It hasn’t publicly changed its position since. DuPont has operated an Innovation Center in Moscow since 2012, where researchers focus on innovation in the food, construction, oil and gas, rail, and automotive industries.

Solenis, a water treatment firm headquartered at Avenue North in the Wilmington suburbs, hasn’t announced any changes to its business in Russia. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Other multinational companies with Delaware workforces that have suspended but not withdrawn their business or operations from Russia include Chemours, e-commerce giant Amazon and Irish industrial manufacturer Johnson Controls. Some, like Dutch financial and professional services giant Wolters Kluwer, French chemical maker Air Liquide and consumer goods maker Procter & Gamble, have scaled back their operations in the country, while others, like Swedish-British drugmaker AstraZeneca and food producer Kraft Heinz, have halted new investments in the country.

Meanwhile, Wilmington-based Solenis, a privately owned global producer of specialty chemicals used in water-intensive industries with roots in Hercules and Ashland, also has a production facility in the city of Perm, near the Ural Mountains in central Russia. Six years ago, the company reportedly invested $5 million into upgrades at the plant in response to strong sales of polyacrylamide powders in Russia. Last week, the company declined to comment on whether it had made any change to its operations.

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