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Indiana companies assess business ties with Russia

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — While Indianapolis-based Rolls-Royce and other companies say their business dealings in Russia makes up less than 1.5% of their revenue, they also say they have decided to stop all business there.

I-Team 8 is finding it’s a common theme with major companies as the war in Ukraine continues to escalate; however, the decision companies have between profit and politics isn’t always an easy one, according to experts.

“I don’t envy anybody who’s in a position of a corporation or government in order to figure out exactly what to do is because this is largely unprecedented,” said Tim Fort, a scholar and business ethics professor at Indiana University. “Depending on the product that you’re doing, it makes a big difference of the values that are behind the product.”

Rolls-Royce, a British multinational aerospace and defense company with Indianapolis facilities, says all its revenue in Russia is in civil markets related to their civil aerospace and power systems business, and the company does not “have any business with Russian military.”

Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant Lilly is in a different position.

Fort said, “If some of (Lilly’s) production facilities, if some of the minerals or the things that are ingredients they need in order to make drugs that save lives, there is a strong reason to say we should be saving lives.”

Lilly showcased its support for Ukraine this week by lighting up its tower and fountain with the country’s colors. Ukraine and Russia made up less than 1% of total company sales in 2021, according to a spokesperson for the company.

“Lilly’s Ukraine office is currently closed, and our operations have been suspended in the country. We continue to provide access to medicines in the region. We are committed to providing lifesaving medicines to patients around the world. While we continue to do business in Russia, we are also committed to complying with EU and U.S. government trade and economic sanctions as well as restrictions on transactions with restricted parties.”

Statement from Eli Lilly & Co.

Fort says different powers are in place when it comes to the war in Ukraine. “Sharp power, which is guns and tanks and stuff like that, and then there’s sticky power, which is, you know, the economics of it.”

Vladimir “Putin clearly is using sharp power, and the rest of the world is using sticky power to try to basically strangle the Russian economy, and we don’t know which one is is more stronger at this point,” the IU professor said.

Fort pointed to the many protests in support for Ukraine in Indianapolis and around the world as proof that consumers have power in forcing businesses to follow suit.

“I was shopping at Target … I saw Russian vodka, and I almost walked up to the front of the store and said, ‘I’d really prefer that you not sell this anymore,’” Fort said. “We’ve recognized that consumers do have powers of saying, ‘I’m angry about this. I don’t want this anymore,’ and companies listen.”

I-Team 8 reached out to several companies with Indiana offices — Cummins, Salesforce and Anthem — to ask about their possible business ties in Russia but did not hear back by Friday afternoon.