McDonald’s, BP, Netflix and hundreds of other companies have enlisted in the West’s pushback against Vladimir Putin. Since the start of Russia’s invasion, several hundred U.S. companies have announced plans to withdraw from or step down their operations in the country. The idea, says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management, is to make Russia such a pariah that Putin is forced to back down.
Sonnenfeld, who’s been called a “C.E.O. whisperer,” is working with his team to compile a corporate watchlist for Russian engagement that effectively serves as a hall of fame, and a hall of shame. In this conversation with Kara Swisher, he discusses when business blackouts will reach a tipping point and result in real change — the way the anti-apartheid boycott did in South Africa.
Kara and Sonnenfeld debate whether a “South Africa moment” is possible when big companies like Koch Industries refuse to leave and when China’s ascendance presents a completely different economic context. They also discuss domestic cases of corporations taking a stand on politics, from Disney’s fiasco with Florida’s so-called Don’t Say Gay bill to the backlash over voting rights bills in Georgia. And Kara asks Sonnenfeld whether morality should really be the business of C.E.O.s. “When people say to C.E.O.s, get back in your lane,” he replies, “this is the lane of business.”
(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
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“Sway” is produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Daphne Chen, Caitlin O’Keefe and Wyatt Orme, and edited by Nayeema Raza; fact-checking by Kate Sinclair, Michelle Harris and Mary Marge Locker; music and sound design by Isaac Jones; mixing by Carole Sabouraud and Sonia Herrero; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin and Kristina Samulewski.