Igor Teslenko, President of Corteva Agriscience in Europe, Middle East and Africa

Values and reputation are worth more than convenient solutions. Corteva Agriscience about Ukrainian agriculture and withdrawal from the Russian market

Igor Teslenko, President of Corteva Agriscience in Europe, Middle East and Africa

Сorteva Agriscience is a global R&D agricultural company that produces and delivers seeds and crop protection solutions to farmers. The company works in 130 countries, has headquarters in the United States, and its shares are listed on the New York Stock Exchange. 

Corteva Agriscience was one of just a few global companies in the agricultural industry to completely withdrew all business from Russia and Belarus after the invasion of Ukraine. 

Igor Teslenko, President of Corteva Agriscience in Europe, Middle East and Africa, who is himself Ukrainian, highlights the agriculture challenges in Ukraine, and the heroism of Ukrainian farmers and explains why ethical principles should always guide a business.

Did the dedication and courage of Ukrainian farmers come as a surprise to you?

In a word, no. Ukrainian farmers have responded to the war with admirable heroism and fortitude. Their resilience and willingness to work for the worldʼs food security are admired even by people who have nothing to do with agriculture. The farmersʼ work is difficult even in peacetime, and now, in conditions of extreme danger and uncertainty, they continue to work and even secure a harvest. 

While the yield is inferior to the last year, such a result would have seemed impossible even in March. It is an honor for us to support Ukrainian farmers, providing them with seeds, crop protection products, and agronomic assistance. 

At the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February this year, many global businesses discussed the need to exit the Russian market. Naturally, this was demanded by Ukrainian society. But in the end, most companies just limited their regional investments or canceled new projects. 

Corteva is among the few companies to fully withdraw its business presence in the Russian Federation. How did you come to this decision?

Corteva announced plans to suspend business activities in Russia shortly after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. We needed time to finalize the process completely, but we immediately ceased all commercial activities and canceled any new product supplies to Russia and Belarus. Business in Russia was big, and Corteva had many legal obligations to clients and partners – it is simply unrealistic for an international company to leave such a market in one day.

But there was no doubt that this decision was necessary. Therefore, on April 28, the Board of Directors decided that Corteva Agriscience would stop doing business in Russia and Belarus.

I believe that operating in countries that are waging or actively supporting war means financing the murders of Ukrainians. Those who continue working in Russia often say they keep food security. But I say: no! It may be a convenient argument but doing business with the aggressor is wrong. We prefer to focus on the food security of Ukraine and the rest of the world. 

How much did the war affect your business? How did your partners react to the withdrawal from the Russian Federation?

Globally, for the company, the financial consequences related to the exit from Russia in the second quarter of 2022 alone amounted to $45 million. And this amount will grow until the end of the year. But the value of human life is higher, and I am glad our partners share our values.

As a Ukrainian, I am proud of our withdrawal from Russia and the support that Corteva has provided to Ukraine since the full-scale invasion. We are primarily focused on the safety of our Ukrainian colleagues. 

I have to admit that despite all odds, we continued our operations and kept our activities continuous and consistent. In early March, the customer demand signaled that sowing should occur, and our Ukrainian team committed itself to support farmers. 

Carrying out sowing during the war was challenging, but the dedication among farmers was inspiring. Also, our colleagues demonstrated a strong sense of cohesion, mutual support, and the ability to respond flexibly to challenges. No one could have expected that business in Ukraine would not just keep pace but also grow. But it happened. I am delighted with how our colleagues in other countries supported Ukraine – they provided shelter, collected aid, and supported in work matters.

As well as our colleagues and farmers, we are providing support for socially vulnerable groups of society. Since February, Corteva has allocated more than 60 million hryvnias to support people in the de-occupied and frontline territories, refugees, and community support, and this assistance is still ongoing. 

I believe that operating in countries that are waging or actively supporting war means financing the murders of Ukrainians. Those who continue working in Russia often say they keep food security. But I say, “no”. It may be a convenient argument, but doing business with the aggressor is wrong

Did the company have difficulties with logistics?

Ukraine is located in the center of Europe. Many logistical routes pass through its territory. Corteva has a seed production facility in the Poltava region, from which it exports to the EU, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. In turn, Corteva imports some seeds and crop protection products to the territory of Ukraine from other facilities of the company in the EU. 

The war forced a reconfiguration of all logistics, but we quickly adapted. All our consumers could get the necessary seeds and crop protection solutions, and the export of seeds from Ukraine to the EU increased 16 times.

How do you cooperate with the Ukrainian state?

We have always had good relations with the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food, and during the war, our cooperation only strengthened. In October, we concluded a joint declaration on the deepening and further development of cooperation in the interests of food security in Ukraine and the world. We outlined the directions of the partnership and agreed on comprehensive cooperation.

How, in your opinion, should businesses in Ukraine respond to the challenges of the times?

In such turbulent times, we must be ready to respond to constant changes and look for appropriate solutions. We must remember that a business is successful when consistently serving its customers. 

For Corteva, the focus has always been and will be our farmers. They appreciate it. They know how we did everything necessary to ensure the sowing. For them, the companyʼs pro-Ukrainian position and the fact that we do not support a terrorist state in the war are very important. And therefore, despite all the difficulties of wartime, we are gaining more customers.

Corteva prides itself on ethical behavior and strong values. We operate based on our core values: be upstanding, stand tall, and enrich lives. Our actions show that we are walking the talk and living these values in our operations. 

We believe in our principles and act according to them. The more global a company is, the greater its responsibility is, and the more impeccable its decisions must be from an ethical point of view since they affect many people simultaneously.

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