McKinsey & Company's response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

08 March 2022 4 min. read
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Many of the world’s largest consultancies have now severed ties with Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, while working to support their staff and others caught in the cross-hairs.

Heavily criticised in the past for its government work in anti-democratic nations such as Saudi Arabia and China, McKinsey has said that it will cease its existing work with Russian state-owned entities and had already stopped work for the government.

The global strategic consulting firm will also not take on new client work in Russia, and suspend all client service in the country once its remaining engagements are concluded.

McKinsey & Company's response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

McKinsey & Company will however keep its Moscow office open to provide support to its 400-plus local colleagues.

While the company’s worded statement in response to the invasion was relatively tempered compared to other leading consultancies (McKinsey’s website boasts that it serves over two thirds of the country’s 30 biggest companies), the firm’s global managing partner Bob Sternfels spoke more directly on the matter in a post to LinkedIn, stating how appalled the consulting firm was by the Russian government’s “indefensible actions” in its “brutal and senseless invasion” of Ukraine.

Sternfels also spoke on the firm’s humanitarian response; “I’ve been touched by the willingness of McKinsey colleagues globally to do whatever they can to help – from organising shipments of emergency supplies into the war zone, to sheltering Ukrainian refugees in their homes, to generous acts of charitable giving. As a firm we are matching colleague donations at three to one, donating $2 million in cash and providing $10 million in pro bono support to the humanitarian effort.”

McKinsey’s Ukraine managing partner Oleksandr Kravchenko went further yet, holding no punches in a post to LinkedIn. “At this point, it should be clear to any unbiased observer that the current Russian government is not simply reckless – it is criminal,” he stated. “It has committed a military crime by launching an overt direct aggression against a sovereign state. It has committed crimes against humanity by consciously shelling and bombing civilian targets, it is about to commit more.”

Several pundits noted the rare act of public expression made outside of the official company line by Kravchenko, who oversees a team of more than 40 McKinsey consultants based in Ukraine, despite the firm’s previous pledges of increased transparency. “This has never happened before,” former Accenture managing director Michael Hobbs told the Wall Street Journal. “You can’t go expressing dissent in a consulting company, even as a partner, in the way in which it’s been done this week.”

And Kravchenko didn’t stop there, stating that a failure to act would mean being complicit in the further loss of Russian and Ukrainian lives. He advised companies; “Close your books to the new business, start shutting the doors of your offices and outlets, stop accepting new orders and consider cancelling the outstanding ones, and above all stop paying any taxes in Russia. This is not about taking a political stance. This is simply about refusing to be associated with immoral and criminal behaviour.”

McKinsey’s initial position on Russia, cutting ties with government agencies alone, was roundly criticised. Former senior partner Andrei Caramitru, who headed the firm’s Eastern European TMT and Romania business, said in response to Sternfel’s earlier post; “You should be ashamed. You refuse to close the McKinsey office in Moscow. And you know very well with whom they work. You know their relationships with the Kremlin. It’s blood money on your hands, staining you with each day.”

Meanwhile, McKinsey’s Poland managing partner, Tomasz Marcinia, who took over at the beginning of last year, also took to LinkedIn to offer support for Kravchenko and outline the local firm’s response, saying that the majority of its Ukrainian colleagues and their families have been successfully relocated, although some “heroically” chose to stay and fight. “Is all of this enough? Marcinia said of its firm’s ongoing efforts to support refugees. “Of course not. We can and will do more.”