What can businesses do to help Ukraine? Since the Russian military invaded Ukraine on February 24, millions of people have left their homes and the country’s infrastructure has been devastated. And even if Russian troops were to withdraw today, the humanitarian situation in Ukraine – and the border areas of neighbouring countries where refugees have fled to – will remain dire for a long time to come.
The terrible images and stories that we are seeing from the warzone have driven hundreds of thousands of people around the world to take action to help. And many businesses feel just as strongly.
Corporate social responsibility surely demands a response. But what can companies do? In this blog, we’ll look at what is already being done around the world, and what your business can do.
What are global businesses doing?
There have been many news stories about Western businesses pulling out of Russia and Belarus in response to the invasion. Some, like McDonalds, have ceased activities temporarily but are continuing to pay staff.
Other multinationals have donated large sums of money – notably IKEA, which has donated 40 million euros through its various holdings to the UNHCR, Save the Children, and other NGOs, to help displaced people.
And some businesses have even provided benefits in kind:
- Hilton and AirBnB have donated hundreds of thousands of nights’ accommodation
- Elon Musk’s SpaceX is helping to maintain Ukrainians’ internet access by deploying 50 Starlink satellites
- Many mobile networks are providing free calls to and/or from Ukraine
But for most businesses – without global reach, local presence, or deep pockets – these kinds of support are not feasible.
So, what can they do instead?
What your business can do to help Ukraine now
#1 Donate money to one of the aid agencies on the ground
Many businesses have given money to one or more of the major aid NGOs that are active in Ukraine, such as:
- Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Appeal
- Save The Children
- British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appealor the Ukrainian Red Cross
- UNICEF Ukraine Appeal
The DEC is co-ordinating work across a wide range of charities and NGOs. While your business may not be able to match IKEA’s donation, even small sums can make a big difference. The DEC says:
- £10 can provide essential hygiene supplies for one person for a month
- £20 can provide emergency food for one person for a month
- £50 can provide blankets for four families (although the worst of the winter is passed, nighttime April temperatures in Ukraine average no more than 5 degrees Celsius)
- £100 can provide emergency food for two families for a month
#2 Help employees to raise funds
A lot of businesses are helping their staff to raise money by providing comms assistance, use of facilities, and matched funding.
This is something one of our clients, Kinovo, has done.
As a business with a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility, Kinovo Group decided to support and assist the work being done by one of their employees, Aneta Chkheidze, in raising funds among her colleagues.
Aneta’s appeal collected hundreds of nappies, duvets, medicine kits, canned food, batteries, and more – plus £575, which Kinovo Group decided to match.
“We were so proud of Aneta’s prompt action and the support that others offered by way of donations, that we felt it was only right for the company to match the contribution that they had raised.” Lee Venables, COO – Kinovo plc.
#3 Review your supply chain
Businesses can make a contribution by supporting Ukrainian companies.
UN Global Compact, for example, is encouraging businesses that use the free version of Grammarly to switch to the paid version.
From a CSR perspective, it’s also important to undertake due diligence to ensure that you avoid trading with companies that are profiting from the conflict.
Along with human rights and the environment, armed conflicts are covered under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Diversifying your supply chain is also highly beneficial from the point of view of social value, as we’ve discussed in earlier blogs.
#4 Offer jobs to skilled Ukrainian workers
Employers can make it a lot easier for refugees to settle in the UK by sponsoring their applications for work permits.
Businesses can apply for work permits under the Skilled Worker visa scheme – although there are sectoral and minimum salary requirements for eligibility.
#5 Offer accommodation to refugees
It’s not only individuals that can offer to house refugees under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Businesses can register their interest too – if they are able to offer accommodation for at least 6 months.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has said that it will soon enable businesses to act as sponsors under the scheme as well. This would enable named people and their families to come to the UK to be housed by the sponsor.
#6 Work with your trade association
Many trade bodies are co-ordinating support efforts from within their sectors. For example:
- Logistics UK (formerly the Freight Transport Association) is working to make air and road freight capacity available for shipping supplies to Ukraine
- The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry is working with the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations to co-ordinate donations of medical supplies
#7 Support employee volunteering
As more Ukrainian refugees reach the UK, community groups are sure to spring up to help with their welfare.
Many working people will be keen to join in with these efforts, and businesses that support employee volunteering – through their CSR or social value strategies – should be ready to respond.
#8 Keep Ukraine on the agenda
As the war drags on, it’s very likely that the first flush of enthusiasm for helping the millions of people displaced, injured, and impoverished by the war will wane.
Businesses can help to keep the humanitarian situation on the world’s agenda by advocating for Ukraine and its people, and by writing goals relating to the relief effort into their CSR policies – to enshrine them as long term objectives.