Bonduelle was embarrassed by his activities in Russia
The case is very embarrassing for the Bonduelle group. Several posts on social networks in Russia state that Russian soldiers received canned goods from the brand for the New Year. Even more embarrassing: on these parcels there is a message with the Bonduelle logo and a wish for the soldiers. “Full of good things and quick victory”.
A post on Yartsevo’s VK (Russian social network) page, which has since been deleted, shows that 10,000 similar parcels have been sent to front-line soldiers and that the initiative was taken by Yekaterina, director of the local Bonduelle subsidiary. Eliseeva.
French company @Bonduelle_Group still in business in ??, but now they’ve sunk even lower – Mrs. Eliseeva, head of Bonduelle in ??, said they sent 10,000 holiday boxes of canned corn and peas to ?? soldiers on the frontline, giving them “a quick win” ??? pic.twitter.com/rIiJgxJqm1
— RitorFella???? (@RitornellaNYC) December 30, 2022
The group denied the content of these publications in a brief press release on December 31. He wakes up “misinformation” and ensure that “The statements attributed to Bonduelle and his leadership are completely false”.
However, Bonduelle admits that he participated in the charity operation “baskets of kindness” organized by the Food Bank of Russia. And according to inspections by TF1, some of these baskets appear to have gone to soldiers, despite Bonduelle’s claims. “not to be responsible for the selection of beneficiaries”.
This version of the facts does not explain the presence of words of encouragement to the soldiers in the parcels. Will the company conduct an internal investigation? Bonduelle is silent on the matter and did not return our calls.
Precedent with Total
This case shows how difficult it is for companies that have chosen to continue operating in Russia to stay away from the conflict. Last August, Total was accused of producing gas condensate used as fuel by the Russian Air Force, although Total said it had not done so. “produced directly for the military”.
Bonduelle cites his role as a supplier to explain his choice to stay in Russia “essential products”. However, this argument is debatable as it is far from being the only domestic vegetable producer.
The group has been established in Russia since 2004 and has three factories there. It employs 1,000 people and generates a local revenue of 150 million euros or 5% of the total turnover. Despite the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Bonduelle continued to invest.
In an interview with Bloomberg in 2015, the managing director of the group, Christophe Bonduelle, even stated that the country is experiencing growth. “extraordinarily high”, not least because Russia has banned many food imports from Ukraine, knocking out its main competitors.
Northern family business
Among the French companies that choose to stay in Russia, many, like Bonduelle, have roots in the North. This is the case of Auchan, Decathlon, La Redoute or Leroy Merlin. Some are also part of the agri-food sector, such as Danone or Lactalis.
Based in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, the Bonduelle family business employs more than 10,000 people. Bonduelle sells canned or frozen vegetables under the Cassegrain and Globus brands. Outside of Russia, it is available in Canada, USA, Brazil and West Africa.
This misstep goes against the values the group has shown elsewhere. Bonduelle wants to be exemplary in terms of social and environmental responsibilities and to be a pioneer in the energy transition. Its American subsidiary is certified as a “B Corp”, a status reserved for companies with a positive social and environmental impact.
Christophe Bonduelle, now the group’s chairman, told the newspaper last spring The world He wants the profits from Russia to be used for the reconstruction of Ukraine. The group also announced in March that it would stop investing in Russia. These images of packages sent to Russian soldiers undermined Russia’s attempts to distance itself from the military operation in Ukraine.