More than 400 of the world’s largest companies, including Netflix, Spotify and Ikea, have reacted to growing international pressure to suspend or withdraw their operations from Russia since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Some giant multinational chains, such as McDonalds, Starbucks and Burger King, have temporarily halted operations there, sending a strong signal of their support to Ukraine.
But not underground.
With 446 franchised stores across the country, Subway has so far refused to sever ties with Russia.
Customers around the world didn’t make the company’s decision right.
Calls for Subway’s boycott have spread like wildfire on social media, with Twitter users declaring their surprise to find the company on the list of companies that refuse to leave Russia.
“I’ll never eat there again!” tweeted @ yankeemommy1.
“I’ve never been on a subway in forever, now I’ll never go back!” he echoed @Wenlindy.
Some are more conflicting. “Oh, shit! The subway is one of my favorite fast food restaurants. Boycott gets tricky sometimes,” she tweeted. @ physicamamma1.
Some users have complained that a boycott would only harm local franchise owners already hit by penalties, instead of punishing the company itself.
“Subway has no corporate operations in Russia,” the company said in a statement.
“There are approximately 450 franchised restaurants in Russia, all independently owned and operated by local franchisees and operated by an independent master franchisee.
“We do not directly control these independent franchisees and their restaurants and have limited insight into their day-to-day operations.”
Other franchise companies, such as Starbucks and Burger King, have suspended their business in Russia. Starbucks has temporarily closed its 130 licensed locations in the country and Burger King has shut down operations at its nearly 800 franchises.
Yum! Brands, which operates 1,000 franchised KFC locations and several Pizza Huts in Russia, has also stopped supporting those restaurants.
Papa John’s has also suspended all corporate operations in Russia, including those that support its independent affiliates.
In the case of both Burger King and Papa John’s, the companies each have an independent franchisee that they said they were unable to shut down.
Subway said it will redirect all profits from operations in Russia to “humanitarian efforts in support of war-affected Ukrainians” and that it is working to provide meals to Ukrainian refugees in its concessions across Europe.
But that’s also what companies that have already suspended operations in Russia, Starbucks and Burger King, have pledged to do.
In his speech to Congress on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Americans to stop buying products that are funding Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Russia. In a passionate speech, he called on all American companies to “leave Russia” and “immediately leave their market because it is inundated with our blood.”
US politician Jon Cooper tweeted that the same Ukrainian blood is now spreading on the subway’s “foot-long sandwiches”.
Subway isn’t the only company avoiding concrete action in Russia.
A list of major corporate exits from Russia compiled by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute shows that around 30 large companies continue to do business there.
News week reached out to Subway for comment and was redirected to the previously mentioned company’s published statement.