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Guest Post: Sonia Kowal on the Crisis in Ukraine

Our friend Sonia Kowal, President of Zevin Asset Management, recently posted this statement on the crisis that’s unfolding in Ukraine. We have been trying to write something to express our dismay and heartbreak — but Sonia’s words here capture our thoughts exceedingly well. Thank you, Sonia, for allowing us to reprint it here.


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The current catastrophe in Ukraine, brought on by Russia, is personal to me. My parents were born to Ukrainian refugees in displaced peoples camps in Germany right after WWII. The parallels between their experience and current Russian aggression are not lost on me. As much as Russia tried to snuff out Ukrainian language and customs during Soviet times, it was preserved by the Ukrainian diaspora, who remained determined to see Ukraine flourish again through independence. My parents moved to Ukraine from Massachusetts in the early 1990s, just as the country was opening up, and stayed there until 2005. I have many happy memories of spending time with friends and family in Ukraine. Now, I see Ukrainians’ fun-loving approach to life turn to a steely determination to stay alive and defeat authoritarianism. Putin’s deliberate targeting of civilians is especially difficult for me to watch, knowing that my cousin and her two-week-old baby, born in a basement bomb shelter of a Kyiv hospital, are unable to evacuate. I am also heartened by the solidarity that I’ve seen from around the world, from demonstrations to flags in windows to humanitarian donations large and small. Ukrainians take a lot of strength from knowing they aren’t alone in this fight. I am proud of the immense bravery and love of country Ukrainians have shown the world, and I applaud those Russian citizens who risk their personal safety by protesting the invasion.

I understand the crisis and the investment community’s role in it more than most, as a Ukrainian-American with a past career as a Russian stock analyst. As this needless war unfolds, I am angered by the role of the investment community in enabling it. When Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, his third invasion in 12 years, investors had no excuse for being invested in businesses with ties to the Russian state.

The best outcome for Ukraine at this point is a swift end to war brought on by a change in Russian leadership. Investors are responsible for helping create an environment in which an overthrow of the current Russian regime by the Russian military and/or populace is the only viable option. By evaluating Russian supply chains and isolating companies that contribute to Putin’s war machine, investors can help weaken Russia’s economy and financial system.

At Zevin Asset Management, we have long resisted any temptation to invest in Russian public companies, or global businesses with significant sales or operations in Russia. We have found the political risks surrounding the current regime and the country’s economic instability to be excessive, and not warranting any capital allocation in a portfolio that tries to prudently balance both risk and reward over the long term. Our investment team has closely scrutinized the companies we are invested in to ensure that we understand any economic ties to Russia, Ukraine, and the surrounding region — and we are confident that the direct exposure is very minimal. We also have been modelling out the effects of different economic scenarios on financial markets globally, especially as inflation is driven higher by elevated commodity, food prices, and other supply shocks. Decreased reliance on fossil fuels is imperative and we are scrutinizing opportunities to benefit from the increased uptake of renewable energy, especially in Europe.

We are also monitoring the divestment activities and strength of action by multinational companies with ties to Russia, similar to the actions taken by responsible investors against apartheid in South Africa. We will hold business leaders accountable to their words and actions in the hopes that they will come to the same conclusion that we have: that profits derived from involvement with the Russian regime are not worth the inherent risks and only serve to validate Putin’s atrocious actions.

Ultimately, the horrific impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should be a wake-up call for anyone invested in countries with authoritarian regimes and a reminder that investors can become targets just as easily as dissidents. How companies and investors respond to this threat will set a precedent that reverberates globally. Unless we prove to China, which is watching the response to Putin’s invasion closely, that western companies are brave enough to stand up to authoritarianism and that investors have the will to forgo profits, we risk future war on an even larger scale.

For a more institutional view of the situation and the investor response, please see my LinkedIn article:

For a list of resources as well as donation links, please see:

Warm Regards,
Sonia Kowal