Canva seriously criticized for continuing to operate in Russia

The Australian tech giant has been hit by a controversy with Ukrainians in Australia calling the company “unprincipled”.

Graphic design company Canva has faced serious criticism for always operating in Russia, as it became the only Australian company to achieve the worst possible ranking on a list of global business responses to the invasion of Ukraine. .

The tracker, run by the American University of Yale, revealed that nearly 1,000 companies had announced that they were voluntarily reducing their operations to some extent beyond the bare minimum required by legal sanctions.

The Yale tracker initially tagged Canva with an “F” rating saying it was “getting its way” offering its services, but after public outrage, the tech company clarified its position by sending its ranking to a “VS”.

That means it was still providing services to Russia but had suspended payments, according to Yale’s tracker.

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Canva, which has more than 60 million active users and is valued at at least $37 billion, said it suspended payments to and from Russia on March 1, donated $1 million to Ukrainian contributors and charities and also directed users to his “pro-peace”. and anti-war models”.

Canva’s head of communications, Lachlan Andrew, said The Guardian the company wanted to use its reach – with 1.4 million Russian users – to “promote the truth and accuracy of information.”

But Ukrainian expat and software engineer Uvi Levitski, who now lives in Australia, is part of an informal group monitoring corporate actions after Russia invaded Ukraine.

He described Canva’s action as “inconsistent” with what the group believed to be an “ethical corporate response” and they were “appalled” by the company’s “unprincipled stance”.

Canva said its decision not to remove its software entirely from Russia was intended to allow users to design anti-war protest images, but Mr. Levitskiy said the majority of Russians support the war.

“It would not be unreasonable to assume that absent any moderation of private content, the amount of pro-war material created using Canva by users in Russia will similarly outweigh the material anti-war, thereby disproportionately benefiting the already all-powerful Kremlin propaganda machine,” he told the Guardian.

“And that’s even ignoring the fact that public opposition to war has effectively been criminalized and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.”

Another Australian Ukrainian community leader, who wished to remain anonymous, also said The Sydney Morning Heraldthat leaving Russia would be a “little inconvenience” for Canva and put pressure on other companies.

“For Canva, as an iconic Australian company, this darling unicorn that is all soft and fluffy and claims to be driven by pure ideals, for this company to leave Russia is of critical importance to us,” he said. he told the newspaper.

McDonald’s announced on Monday that it would exit the Russian market entirely and sell its 850 branches in the increasingly isolated country.

Mr. Levitski had also denounced Canva’s March 4 blog written by co-founder Cliff Obrecht, which he described as “weakly worded” because it did not mention the word “invasion” or “war”, instead describing the situation as “illegal”. and irresponsible act of aggression”.

Following the public outrage, Canva updated its blog post Wednesday saying the company is “strongly opposed to the ongoing war in Ukraine and strongly condemns Russia’s continued and unlawful acts of aggression.”

He said his pro-peace templates had been used more than 275,000 times since the start of the war and he had seen “no evidence that Canva was being used for the wrong reason”, but he continued to monitor the situation.

Other Australian companies were also on Yale’s list, but with much more favorable ratings.

Tech giant Atlassian, founded by Australians Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, whose share price has fallen around 60% since November, has been awarded a ‘B’ rating, meaning it temporarily reduced almost all or most operations. Atlassian has suspended software sales to Russia.

Energy company Viva also drew the same note as it suspended purchases of Russian oil.

Firms that had earned an ‘A’ rating – credited with halting Russian engagements or leaving the country altogether – included Qantas, mining giant Rio Tinto and law firm Herbert Smith Freehills.