By James Rogers
Pernod Ricard's Russian operations have been in the spotlight in recent months
Drinks giant Pernod Ricard has ceased exports of its international brands to Russia but says it will take "some months" to end distribution of its products in the country.
The French company was slammed last month over its resumption of exports of iconic brands Jameson whiskey and Beefeater gin to Russia, after having earlier ended exports to the country following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Pernod Ricard (RI.FR) ultimately reversed its decision to resume Jameson and Beefeater exports. Exports to Russia of Absolut vodka, which is also owned by Pernod Ricard, were ended in April after a backlash in Sweden.
Last week Pernod Ricard issued a statement on its website detailing the end of its Russian exports and the closing of its operations in Russia. "Pernod Ricard has confirmed last week it had stopped all exports of its international brands to Russia at the end of April 2023 and will also cease the distribution of its portfolio in Russia, a process anticipated to take some months to complete, complying with all local laws and regulations," the company added in a statement provided to MarketWatch this week.
Pernod Ricard has also highlighted the need to support its employees in Russia. "We are assessing how to adapt our local organisation in light of these decisions," it said on its website last week. "Since the outbreak of the war our guiding principle has been the welfare of our teams wherever they are based, and we will continue to support our local employees during this process."
Also see: Pernod Ricard makes U-turn on Russia after backlash over Jameson and Beefeater exports
The company has around 300 employees in Russia. In the last fiscal year before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia accounted for less than 3% of the company's total sales.
The Moral Rating Agency, an organization set up after the invasion of Ukraine to examine whether companies were carrying out their promises of exiting Russia, described Pernod Ricard's commitment as "unsatisfactory" in a statement this week. Pernod Ricard, it said, is leaving itself "too many loopholes."
"We will be watching its actions closely to see that it does actually get out," Moral Rating Agency founder Mark Dixon said in the statement.
Other companies should take note of the criticism Pernod Ricard has faced, Dixon said. "It was an outrageous idea to dare to restart exports to Russia," he said in the statement. "Pernod Ricard's climbdown in the face of a public outcry is a lesson for other companies -- no one should be tempted to do the same."
Related: Tinder owner Match exits Russia: 'We are committed to protecting human rights'
In the statement provided to MarketWatch, Pernod Ricard said that since the outbreak of the war, the company has "utterly condemned the invasion of Ukraine by Russia."
The statement continued: "We have stood and stand firmly with the people of Ukraine, providing assistance to our 60 local team members, including direct financial assistance, psychological support, accommodation for some employees and their families in neighbouring countries and employment outside Ukraine for those who required it. Since the beginning of the war in kraine, Pernod Ricard's guiding principle was the welfare of its teams, wherever they are based in the region."
Earlier this month, Tinder parent company Match Group Inc. (MTCH)announced that its brands are exiting Russia, citing human-rights concerns. The brands will complete their withdrawal from the Russian market by June 30, the company said.
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May 19, 2023 12:34 ET (16:34 GMT)
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