As Russia continues to press its brutal invasion of Ukraine, resistance has come in a new form: from the petroleum industry to fast food, businesses have moved swiftly to shut down operations and exit the market. Many of the biggest consultancy firms had previously declared their refusal to serve Russian government clients but planned on continuing to do business with Russian corporations. Public reaction has driven them to re-think that approach, and recently, the ‘Big Four’ accounting and ‘Big Three’ strategy firms have announced a total halt to conducting business in Russia and Belarus.
The pushback against the firms’ original plans was swift and harsh: McKinsey’s announcement was branded by company alumni as “cowardice” and a “weak PR move,” leading to a change in course mere days later, as the consultancies resolved to cut ties with Russian member firms or even close down operations entirely. These are decisions of no small consequence, as many of the Big Four and Big Three consultancies are global alliances made up of independent member country firms, which must be legally separated at the cost of significant legal and contractual issues.
"We believe we have a responsibility, along with other global businesses, to respond to the Russian government's ongoing military attack on Ukraine. As a result, our Russian and Belarus firms will leave the KPMG network," a spokesperson for KPMG said.
McKinsey stated it would stop work for state-owned entities and suspend all client work in Russia once active projects ended. BCG announced it would suspend its work with Russian clients and offer reassignment or relocation to its Russian employees. Accenture plans on closing down entirely, while Grant Thornton will sever relationships with its Russian member firm. PwC, Deloitte, KPMG, and EY all declared they would cut ties with Russian member firms immediately. All told, the seven firms collectively employ nearly 20,000 people in the country.
The withdrawal of top professional services firms comes as part of a larger exodus driven by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the global wave of condemnation and sanctions. Many other companies have resolved to either suspend operations, pause sales, end relationships, or halt operations entirely. While it’s unlikely that these actions alone will stop the war, hopefully they will become part of an unstoppable wave of censure that pushes the Russian government to re-evaluate its actions.