Over the past few years, we’ve seen some incredible momentum as the private sector has stepped up to support the millions of people fleeing conflict to safer haven. Thanks to the leadership of Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulakaya and the Tent Partnership for Refugees, companies like Starbucks, Ikea, and many others have committed to hiring thousands of refugees over the coming years. Others have donated millions to nonprofits supporting refugees, like the International Rescue Committee. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the numbers of refugees keep on growing – expected to quadruple by the year 2050, and the majority are far from corporate headquarters. But they still need help. Luckily, there’s a role for companies to play in helping refugees, no matter where they’re located. Today, we’re happy to curate a menu of specific ways companies, large and small, can help refugees during their entire journey — from camps to settlement to employment to thriving in their new communities.
Your Purchasing Power
In addition to directly hiring refugees, there are multiple opportunities to source products and services from refugee-owned businesses and other companies intentionally hiring along the entire scope of the supply chain. NeedsList recently purchased swag to give out at an event from Peace by Chocolate, a Nova Scotia based company, founded by Syrian refugee Tarek Hadhad. Makers Unite and 734 Coffee and many others offer refugee owned or made products. Looking to beef up language skills in your company? Women owned-business Natakallam offers translation and tutoring from refugees. When booking travel, stay at hotel chains like Hilton, who are actively training and hiring refugees or use an intermediary such as TripAdvisor, an outspoken advocate for refugees.
Are you a law firm or film production company? Do you offer internet, accounting or catering services? Chances are, there are non profit organizations on the ground supporting refugees that could use your help. While larger companies like Microsoft have set up wifi at refugee camps, smaller businesses can also directly support nonprofits either locally or remotely. There are thousands of organizations across the globe, working under the radar to support refugees, who require book-keeping services or communications support. From revamping an organization’s logo to remote translation services, to holding mock interviews through your local refugee resettlement organization, nearly every skilled employee at your company can find ways to put their talent and time to work to make a real difference for a newly arrived refugee or for the organization serving them.
We often think of people’s basic needs when it comes to refugees. Food. Shoes. Sleeping bags. The reality is that a refugee’s journey is a long one, and there are needs along every step of the way. Some of these needs may not seem urgent, but in fact, they are central to the psycho-social care of families affected by trauma. Consider that one groundbreaking initiative in Greece has been distributing SD cards loaded with videos on the asylum process, or that refugees in Uganda have received thousands of discounted reusable sanitary napkins, thanks to the generosity of companies like LunaPads. Other products, such as mobile phone credit, may not be top of mind but have a tremendous impact to families far from home who wish to get in touch with loved ones, access services, or find their way around.
When refugees arrive and are resettled, data consistently shows that finding a job is a top priority. From Vienna to Malaysia, nonprofit organizations are directly supporting refugees to enter the workforce. Check out organizations like the Refugee JumpStart Career Project and the Scalabrini International Migration Network to see if you can partner with them to hire directly. If not, considering making an introduction to someone who is, or taking on an intern or apprentice. We’ve also found joining networks such as Tent or the Refugee Investment Network inspiring to share approaches and best practices, even from traditional “competitors”.
From local to global policy, the private sector has a tremendous role to play in supporting refugee-friendly policies. We’ve seen companies like AirBnB and Etsy publicly condemn anti-immigration legislation, while smaller businesses were paramount to the electoral wins of refugee candidates from City Council to Congress. Sign on and support advocacy campaigns such as the Longer Table by Amnesty, or Ways to Support Refugees from HIAS, or the Network for Refugee Voices.
Your Financial Support
Last but not least, consider cash donations and direct investments beyond the traditional players. There are a wide range of emerging social enterprises innovating the field. While they may be small, they are thinking big, and your dollars will go far – these organizations are lean and savvy, and they get a lot done with minimal resources. What about supporting refugee entrepreneurs through loan funds such as Kiva, or through direct investment? In today’s market where consumers demand good corporate citizenship, these donations are more than a tax write-off – they’re smart business.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn, and was co-authored by Ian Lobo, Managing Director at Accenture Development Partnerships, and Natasha Freidus, CEO and Co-Founder of NeedsList.