It has been 90 days since Russian tanks entered Ukraine to trigger a war that has convulsed the world, traumatized global supply chains, and sparked an economic crisis. Although many news channels don’t lead with the horrors in Eastern Europe, organizations worldwide have created grassroots initiatives to try to aid those in Ukraine.
From the start of the conflict, on February 24, many companies have been inundated with passionate employee-led responses to aid those caught in the crossfire. For example, PepsiCo staff in countries bordering Ukraine, such as Poland and Romania, are seeing first-hand the challenges faced by refugees. So the organization has taken a grassroots approach to empower staff to use their professional talents to take action in the crisis.
Sashko Morokhovskyi, a Ukraine national working on the supply chain team for PepsiCo in Romania, is helping Ukrainian children secure education in Bucharest. Less than two weeks after having the idea, and through collaboration with the Private School Association, he established a learning center for students ages three to 17 years old.
Meanwhile, financial controller Kasia Fabisiak used her skills from planning projects to convert PepsiCo’s Warsaw headquarters into a hotel for Ukrainians. What was once an office with desks for 500 staff can now accommodate 120 people and their pets.
Elsewhere, Kraków-based Erhan Ok, the company’s head of intelligent automation and integration in Europe, and his IT team have created an application to match refugee needs with volunteering colleagues and donations.
PepsiCo has assisted with rehoming around 1,400 Ukrainians — and fleeing colleagues — in Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Germany, and the Czech Republic. And many employees have opened their doors.
Duty to help
The conflict is acutely important for PepsiCo, as Charline Berry, the company’s chief human resources officer in Europe, explains. “PepsiCo is the largest food and beverage company in Ukraine,” she said. “We employ over 3,000 people, support more than 1,400 farming jobs, and serve more than 80,000 customers. We are embedded in Ukraine and have a duty to help our people and communities.”
Almost immediately after the invasion began, Berry evacuated the Ukraine team and their families, including newborn babies, grandparents, and pets. In the first three weeks, PepsiCo facilitated 25 convoys carrying 600 people to the border. Not only has the organization rehoused displaced employees and their nearest and dearest, but it has also guaranteed all Ukrainian employees’ salaries until the end of the year.
But it is how ideas have been percolated and acted upon that has made the real difference. “Great ideas do not need to get caught up in hierarchy or red tape, and in a crisis, you need agility to respond with impact,” said Berry. “Our employees are encouraged to bring their whole selves to work and voice their opinions and ideas fearlessly.”
The framework to share ideas was established during the pandemic, freeing up teams to innovate on projects with more agility and less red tape — a structure that made employees’ wishes to take meaningful, swift action to aid the Ukraine situation, a reality. PepsiCo set guiding principles — the need to act with compassion and adapt boldly — and identified crisis management teams. “The implementation of support is driven by the need on the ground and the innovation of our team,” added Berry. “They come to the crisis team, tell us what barriers need to be removed or what resources are needed to make something happen, and we help enable that.”
The speed at which PepsiCo and countless other companies have moved to help those caught up in the Ukraine war is nothing short of remarkable. Global courier company Glovo, for instance, has offices in Ukraine but acted quickly to rush staff to safety. But that was just the start.
“We knew that employees wanted to help, and we had to empower them,” said Sébastien Pellion, head of social impact and sustainability. “Owing to our extraordinary digital team, we pivoted our tech to activate an in-app bubble where, in partnership with the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, users were able to donate directly to local NGOs.”
The company donated €500,000 ($533,000) to support humanitarian efforts and encouraged office managers across Europe to help accommodate goods, medicines, and funds for Ukrainian refugees, leading to many donations from staff.
Meanwhile, cloud-based platform monday.com also applied its expertise, led by Vlad Mystetskyi, an Israel-based but Ukraine-born senior developer. “Managing thousands of refugees, ensuring their safety, and tracking their travel was a logistical challenge, to say the least — but we had the technology to help,” he said.
To do that, monday.com deployed an “emergency response team” to a refugee camp on the border of Poland and Ukraine. Mystetskyi, who has family and friends in his homeland, knew that he could make a difference with his technical expertise and knowledge of the Ukrainian language, so he joined the team.
“Our goal was to understand the challenges on the ground and see how tech could be implemented to help,” he continued. The 30-strong group witnessed an understandably chaotic scene. Up to 10,000 refugees were arriving daily. And the army, NGOs, and individual volunteers needed a system that would consolidate their efforts.
“After two days of assessing the situation, we began building a safe system that would help register arriving and leaving refugees, verify drivers, and digitally match refugees with volunteers and drivers according to their destination and language they speak,” added Mystetskyi.
In just one week, and using monday.com’s agile low-code/no-code work operating system, the team built out the digital infrastructure that would serve as the logistical underpinning for two refugee camps’ staff and volunteers. As a result, over 75,000 refugees were registered, and around 90% were matched to verified drivers to reach their next destination.
Mystetskyi summed up the effort his company and other organizations have made to the cause. “We believe that technology can and should be used for social good, and we were incredibly proud and privileged to have this opportunity to help the people of Ukraine.”