The Moral Rating Agency’s ratings will make your company’s life difficult if you are not acting morally and will commend you if you are.
If you have not yet been rated, we are planning to expand to cover many more companies soon, so this is your chance to announce something before we do. We would like you to be on the right side of this story.
Times of war, as now with the invasion of Ukraine, and times of moral war, as now when the Free World and democracy are being assailed, call for us to think beyond our pocketbooks and beyond the next quarter’s earnings report. To move from being a citizen of free enterprise to a citizen of the Free World.
If you have already withdrawn from Russia and don’t intend to return till the country ceases to be run by an autocratic regime, this warning doesn’t apply to you.
You do have a choice in how to behave. You don’t only have to make decisions for your shareholders and traditional stakeholders. One of your stakeholders – beyond shareholders, employees, suppliers and customers – is the people you affect through your actions.
If democratic and innocent people are being attacked by an autocratic regime that you are supporting economically, and if by not withdrawing that support you are helping that country to continue to attack the other country, you are failing a stakeholder whom you have created by your actions or inactions.
Serious corporations have values or at least make a lot of efforts to state they have them. These are made a mockery of if your business supports a regime with values that are diametrically opposed to your own. If you do, you might as well admit you don’t have the corporate values to which you aspire.
Companies in Western democracies pride themselves on acting with independent thinking, as opposed to those in controlled economies, which we see in the trend of Chinese companies not to stop working with Russia) . By contrast, if you are a Western company, you are free to act independently from such pressure. Indeed, this independence of action is the cornerstone of the free market. You don’t have to follow the will and whim of the government unless it is law. The failure of your government to impose a sanction to force you to do the right thing doesn’t mean you should not be making your own moral decisions. Nothing is standing in the way of you doing the right thing and, not doing the right thing till the law says you must, is doing the wrong thing.
Zelensky said on twitter, “Now can be no ‘half’ decisions or ‘halftones’! There is only black and white, good or evil! You are ether for peace or support the bloody Russian aggressor to kill Ukrainian children and women. @Microsoft @Oracle @SAP, stop supporting your products in Russia, stop the war!”
All companies contributing to Russia should look at their stakeholders including those whom they influence. These are the silent stakeholders who don’t speak at your shareholder meetings, and don’t come to work in your offices and factories. You do not send them dividends or salaries, but your influence over their lives may be far greater. Thus, they are your stakeholders.
The moral arguments should be more than enough to get you to withdraw properly. However, there are plenty of commercial reasons to tip the balance further towards doing the right thing.
Consumers and investors are becoming more aware of which companies are still working with Russia. Our own efforts are focused on measuring precisely what you are doing. As more companies withdraw, there will be an even greater focus on your behavior as you find yourself in the minority. For every shareholder you might enrich through your delay, there may be several who would be happy if you took the moral high ground. How many customers will buy more of your products because you are still working with Russia? Plenty will not buy them if you continue to do so. If you do the right thing, you may even win some customers from companies that don’t.
You should also look at the bigger picture and the longer term. Your business will prosper more if the world is a more stable place, with a larger market from a larger Free World, less impacted by instability and by economic resources being wasted on discord. The West is in a slow war against autocratic regimes that it doesn’t clearly see. This means the free market economy is also being undermined. An unhealthy Free World and an unhealthy free market can hardly be good for your business.
If you wish to look at this in terms your CFOs will be able to understand, deduct the present value of profitability from your market share of a diminished market of the future if we don’t succeed in making a change from a better one, and then compare that to the relatively small sacrifice you need to make today to do the right thing.
If you are unconvinced, add a risk-adjustment to the present value differential, and the message should still be significant.
You should in fact realize that your company may not even exist in ten or twenty years’ time, or at least exist in any comparable economic sense, if we don’t have a surviving or healthy Free World. Indeed, George Soros said at Davos in May 2022 that our society is in danger for its survival.
Add this present value differential to the near-term commercial value of happier customers, and some happier investors, and the result should make the moral satisfaction of doing the right thing even more attractive.
So, if you look beyond the narrow view of what trade or profits you may lose today, the glass can look strangely full, even on a strictly financial basis.
The Moral Rating Agency calls on all companies to do the right thing and join the moral world. We both welcome and warn you. The welcome is sincere because we want you on the right side of this story. The warning is equally sincere because we want to expose you permanently in our Indelible Ledger if you are not. Your move.
Moral Rating Agency