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3.1.22 Advocacy Alert: Employer Considerations During Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Josh Veronica

March 1, 2022

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized Russian forces to invade Ukraine, greatly escalating tensions between Russia and the West. Although 5,000 miles separate Buffalo from Kyiv, there are considerations employers in our region should review during this conflict.

  1. Consider Russian divestment. To sanction Russia, there have been calls to boycott Russian goods and services. Governor Kathy Hochul directed all state agencies to divest public funds from Russian entities. Texas Governor Greg Abbott asked retailers to voluntarily remove Russian products from their shelves. Employers may wish to review any goods or services they receive from Russian entities. In addition to the foreign policy objective of divestment, there may be strategic and operational value in doing so. Because Western nations removed many Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging network, many Russian entities will lose the capability to make international transactions. For this reason, continuing to do business with Russian entities may result in unexpected interruptions.
  2. Assess your organization’s cybersecurity. After malware attacks last week in Ukraine, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned that “further disruptive cyberattacks against organizations in Ukraine are likely to occur and may unintentionally spill over to organizations in other countries.” Your organization should be prepared to defend against such an attack. The US Chamber gives additional guidance here.
  3. Prepare for economic shockwaves. After a year of concerning inflation, the last thing businesses need is another increase in supply chain costs. However, your organization must prepare for this possibility. According to the NYT, “in recent years, the European Union has received nearly 40 percent of its gas and more than a quarter of its oil from Russia.” Any abrupt disruption to this arrangement – either because Europe wants to cut off Russia’s main foreign revenue source, or because Russia wants to cut off Europe’s power source – would have massive implications for Europe; the largest being that Europe would quickly need to find a new supplier of oil and gas. This would mean higher demand for oil and gas, and accordingly, a higher global price for both. Expect continued turbulence in American and foreign stock markets, too.
  4. Support energy independence. Europe’s deep reliance on Russian gas and oil has become a liability that Russia has leveraged to fend off the most severe economic sanctions. To avoid a similar entanglement, the U.S. should maximize its energy production capacity so that our economy can remain powered despite the souring of any foreign relationship. Legislative proposals that inhibit America’s ability to produce and use domestic energy should be opposed.
  5. Keep workplace culture respectful. Although the Russian invasion has evoked strong emotions, remember that all employees should be treated with respect. Any antagonization or discrimination because of the conflict or national origin should not be tolerated.

The BNP will keep you informed of any future local implications from this conflict.