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Civil society calls on new West Midlands mayor to reaffirm predecessor’s condemnation of Mondelēz links to Russia

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Civil society calls on new West Midlands mayor to reaffirm predecessor’s condemnation of Mondelēz links to Russia
CC image courtesy of Keir Starmer on Flickr.
Civil society calls on new West Midlands mayor to reaffirm predecessor’s condemnation of Mondelēz links to Russia
CC image courtesy of Keir Starmer on Flickr.
In partnership with:
B4Ukraine

Ahead of the mayoral election in the UK’s West Midlands region on 2 May, IPHR and other civil society partners wrote to all the candidates to call on them to condemn Mondelēz International’s refusal to withdraw from Russia in spite of the country’s ongoing full-scale aggressive and illegal war on Ukraine. As the owner of Cabdury, one of the UK’s most profilic confectionary brands, Mondelēz is a major employer in the West Midlands. On 30 April, then-mayor Andy Street responded to the joint letter by writing directly to Mondelēz CEO Dirk van de Put to express his serious concerns about this situation and to encourage him to disengage from Russia. On 2 May, the West Midlands elected Labour’s Richard Parker as the new mayor of the region. Now, IPHR and partners have written a follow-up letter to Parker calling on him to reaffirm the position of his predecessor regarding Mondelēz’ business relations with Russia. Readers can find the full text of the open letter below as well as in the linked PDF.

Dear Mr Parker,

First of all, we would like to congratulate you on your recent election as Mayor of the West Midlands. We trust that you will serve the people of the West Midlands with dedication and integrity.

Ahead of the mayoral elections, Ukrainians in Birmingham, alongside the other undersigned organisations, wrote to you, as well as the five other candidates, to express our concerns about Cadbury owner Mondelēz International’s continued operations in Russia, particularly the corrosive impact this association is beginning to have on one of the West Midlands’ most beloved and historic brands, Cadbury, and to urge you to speak out on this issue. 

As we wrote to you in our previous letter, in 2022 alone, Mondelēz paid roughly £48 million into the Russian budget, a budget 40% of which is now dedicated to the Russian military. Moreover, the company continues to operate three factories and employ over 3,000 people in Russia. Justifying its decision to maintain operations in Russia, Mondelēz has stressed its ‘deep concern’ for its Russia-based staff. But while Richard and George Cadbury built a town for their workers, Russia’s Partial Mobilisation Order binds employers like Mondelēz to aid the Russian government in the conscription of their staff. Cadbury’s owner has also argued that its products are too ‘essential’ for it to leave the Russian market, but its definition of ‘essential’ goods apparently includes chocolate, with imports of Milka, another Mondelēz-owned brand, more than doubling in the year following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. According to analysis by the Kyiv School of Economics, in 2022-2023, foreign companies operating in Russia may have paid as much as £32 billion to the Russian government through tax contributions, a figure equivalent to roughly half of the annual budget of the military whose brutal campaign of terror is today intensifying. With this in mind, so long as its owner continues to put money into Vladimir Putin’s coffers, there will be an indelible stain on Cadbury’s once-proud name. 

During the campaign, one of your five pledges was to create 150,000 new jobs and training opportunities in the West Midlands. Like you, we want to see the West Midlands succeed and we believe that ethical business is absolutely central to the question of creating and safeguarding good jobs for West Midlanders. As a major employer in the region, we believe that Mondelēz has serious questions to answer as to its stewardship of one of Britain’s most historic and beloved brands. In recent days, we have already seen Buckingham Palace strip royal warrants from two Russian-linked companies. With this in mind, there can be little doubt as to the risks inherent in Mondelēz’ willingness to play fast and loose with Cadbury’s reputation. 

Since 2022, the West Midlands has opened its doors to more than 2,000 Ukrainians who now call this diverse and dynamic region home. On 30 April, in one of his final acts as Mayor of the West Midlands, your predecessor, Andy Street, wrote to Mondelēz CEO Dirk Van de Put to express his deep concerns about the company’s ongoing business relations with Russia. West Midlanders can take pride in the steadfast support that the region and the whole of the UK have shown for Ukraine over the last two years of full-scale war, its commitment to which the Labour Party has stressed repeatedly in recent months

We write to you, at this critical moment ahead of Mondelēz’ annual general meeting on 22 May, to urge you, as the incoming Mayor of the West Midlands, to add your voice to the growing number of those across the political spectrum, including Mondelēz employees and shareholders, who are now speaking out against Mondelēz’ decision to put profits ahead of Ukrainian lives and to demand that the company urgently review its decision to continue to do business in Russia. 

We understand that, coming into your new role as the face of the West Midlands, you are surely grappling with a great many urgent priorities, but we trust that you, like your predecessor, will recognise the importance of this issue. 

Respectfully signed, 

International Partnership for Human Rights

Ukrainians in Birmingham

The B4Ukraine Coalition

Ukraine Solidarity Project

UK Friends of Ukraine 

Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain

Campaign for Ukraine

Attached documents

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