What Nestlé Is Doing To Help Its Employees In Ukraine

As Russia's assault on neighboring Ukraine enters its third month, food giant Nestlé is stepping up its efforts to support the smaller nation, even as some protest it has not done enough to distance itself from Russia.

The Swiss-based corporation, which Forbes listed as the largest food company in the world in 2020, originally opted to shut down its three Ukrainian manufacturing locations at the onset of the war, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), however, it has since adjusted its operations to continue producing food for the embattled nation.

The WSJ reports that shortly after the invasion began, the company reopened its plants in Lviv and Volyn, both of which are located in the western portion of the country and have not seen ground combat. To protect employees from airstrikes, the company has created bomb shelters in the facilities' basements and adjusted production protocols to allow lines to shut down and restart easily. Nestlé has also found a way to operate the factories with a smaller staff so everyone can safely take shelter in the event of a bombing.

Additionally, while operations have not resumed at Nestle's third plant in Kharkiv (one of the cities significantly impacted by the war) the company has converted the facility into a base for its humanitarian operations, paying employees to come in under the protection of military guards to pack boxes of noodles and other donated supplies to residents who have been displaced or are struggling to eat.

Some Nestlé employees are unhappy over business in Russia

According to Confectionery Production, Nestlé has donated over 40 million servings of food and beverages to the citizens of Ukraine, much of which the WSJ reports has been brought in via trucks from the U.K. and Germany. The company has also provided assistance to employees attempting to flee the warzone with their families: offering open positions at other facilities to displaced employees, paying salaries in advance, and converting part of a Polish factory into an overnight shelter for employees crossing the border (via Nestlé).

Still, some employees are displeased with the food producer's efforts, as the company has refused to completely discontinue all business in Russia. According to Bloomberg, Nestlé announced on March 23 that it would end manufacturing of most of its products in Russia, though it has stood by the decision to continue selling essential items including baby formula and products used in hospitals. The brand has also ceased nearly all imports and exports in the country and has shared plans to donate all proceeds from the ongoing sales to humanitarian efforts, according to its official corporate statement.

Reuters reports that this stance has upset a portion of Nestlé employees, leading some to quit their jobs, but did not provide a figure. Nestlé employed about 5,800 Ukrainians before the start of the war, though many have fled their homes, either relocating west or leaving the country entirely as part of the 11 million refugees the BBC reports the crisis has created.