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Avon continues doing business in Russia despite Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine

BBC investigation shows Avon expanding Russia operations – UK-headquartered cosmetics firm still making products outside Moscow and recruiting Russian sales agents during Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
“Avon continues production for the Russian market in a huge plant in the Moscow region.” Photo: BBC

Beauty giant Avon faces criticism for sustaining its Russian operations amidst Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. The BBC found that Avon continues to recruit sales agents and maintain production at a large facility in Moscow Oblast. The UK-headquartered company has been operating in Russia for three decades.

Since Russia started its full-blown invasion of Ukraine, the Yale School of Management has been tracking over 1,500 companies and found that over 1,000 have publicly announced they have curtailed operations in Russia beyond the minimum required by international sanctions, although some continue to operate there undeterred.

Known for its door-to-door sales model showcasing cosmetics and fragrances, the 137-year-old company has recently shifted towards physical stores and social media sales, according to BBC.

Avon factory continues operations

Avon, which started its Russian operations in the early 1990s, has achieved significant success and became the leading perfume brand in Russia, as per Avon’s website. The company established its Naro-Fominsk factory near Moscow in 2004, producing over 220 varieties of cosmetics and perfumes. Avon informed the BBC that the Naro-Fominsk facility now solely caters to the Russian market.

At the onset of Russia’s war, Avon informed the Interfax news agency of plans to shift production for Eastern European markets from its Naro-Fominsk plant to Poland, a commitment they seem to have honored. In late October last year, when a contact ordered from Avon Russia, three out of four products delivered were manufactured in Naro-Fominsk, with one originating from Poland, according to BBC.

Avon registers new sales agents in Russia

When Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Avon halted investment and ceased exporting beauty products from Russia to other markets, including Ukraine. Natura & Co, Avon’s Brazilian parent company, has stressed that maintaining local operations in Russia is solely to support sales agents dependent on their business.

Despite the company’s claims, the BBC has found it is still possible to register as a new sales agent for Avon’s Russia-based firm, with recruits offering prizes, cash bonuses, and even holidays for hitting targets.

BBC found that Avon’s website invites Russian citizens over 18 to access “iconic, high-quality products,” highlighting the potential for additional income and a career as a beauty expert.

After the BBC’s online registration, they received a welcome email offering entry into an “Easy Start” sales program and contact information for a local coordinator. A YouTube video on Avon Russia’s account, celebrating their 30-year presence, features senior managers discussing awards, social media training, sales improvement techniques, and international trips for top “Star Club” sellers.

An Avon spokesperson emphasized,

“Avon Russia supports women in Russia through activities that fund their social selling businesses, providing critical support for their livelihoods.”

In its January 8 update, the Kyiv School of Economics which has been monitoring the international companies’ business activities in Russia, released the following statistics:

  • Number of companies that continue Russian operations: 1,576;
  • Number of companies that have reduced current operations and held off new Investments: 547;
  • Number of companies that have curtailed Russian operations: 1,206;
  • Number of the companies that completed withdrawal from Russia: 348.

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