How Can Business Support Refugees?

By Rustam Baratov

The global number of refugees continues to rise, and the role of the private sector is therefore inevitable to support the long-term sustainable integration of refugees. Almost one-third of all refugees are moving outside of Africa, and Europe — countries, such as Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, respectively 3.5 million registered by the government of Turkey, and 2 million registered by UNHCR in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, was mentioned by Gideon Maltz from Tent Foundation.

In the Panel Discussion at the European Business Summit with speakers, such as Tent Foundation, Starbucks, Microsoft, and the European Commission — It was discussed that solely financial commitment from the private sector is not sustainable, however utilizing the core competences of the same stakeholders, and the long-term commitment, such as ‘providing training of new skills, services and community engagement can help to build impact collaboratively. Alice Vermaele, Senior Manager for Global Social Impact at Starbucks, highlights the commitment the company has made to hire 10,000 refugees by 2020 [that have legal authorization to work in the country].

For example, Tent Foundation says that business has a critical role to play in solving the refugee crisis and helping everyone for a better sustainable integration — Gideon Maltz mentioned three key initiatives to support the public sector:

  1. Impact Investment: Where companies invest directly in refugee entrepreneurs, refugee-owned SMEs, social enterprises, and organizations that hire and source from refugees.
  2. Service Delivery: Where businesses reach refugees directly and engage refugees by meeting the needs of refugee communities.
  3. Hiring & Supply Chains: Working directly with suppliers to create employability opportunities for refugees, and sourcing from refugee-owned businesses.


What is the role of the business?

It is important to think that the particular role of the businesses is long-term economic integration, and it is critical to elaborate that business can support refugees everywhere, including low- and middle-income countries. Furthermore, taking full advantage of core-competencies of private ventures is important to support the public funds, and immediate humanitarian aid.

What is the role in hiring?

“The reality is that 99% of our jobs are in retail.” says Alice Vermaelen from Starbucks, and there are so many different ways of supporting the refugee crisis. For Starbucks it is through hiring and providing learning opportunities by partnering with nonprofit organizations that provide services to refugees in the US, Canada, and Europe.

Learning from others and talking to other businesses and organizations, such as Tent Foundation and the European Commission is one of the steps we can follow to work collaboratively together and share mutual success.

How can we help NGOs to become more productive?

“Microsoft has commited to create a future that works for everyone” published by Frederic Lardinois from TechCrunch (19 Jan 2016), and launched Microsoft Philanthropies in 2015 to empower people and communities. Mentioned by the speaker from Microsoft, “Satya Nadella made a public pledge to donate $1 billion worth in cloud computing resources to nonprofit organizations and research centers tackling the most crucial social issues.”

“Work closely with nonprofits that are dealing with refugees and offer them for free software that would improve productivity.”

How can we develop skills to help refugees integrate in the society?

Look further than emergency relief, and support those who had a business or an idea, says Emma Ursich, Global Head of Corporate Identity & the Human Safety Net Foundation from Generali Group — “This is also connected to what we do everyday in advising SMEs, and we try to package this all together to create an ecosystem.” For example, Generali is focused on entrepreneurship, and innovation.

Why does this matter, integration?

“The European Commission has been working on integration of people as a result of a large influx of refugees in 2016.” — ‘Philanthropy is great [..] says Antoine Savary, Deputy Head of Unit, DG Home at the European Commission, but there is also a business case: (1) Ageing in Europe, and (2) the shortage of skills, for example, IT, and Health Care.

“Not investing in integration would be a waste of potential resources in the economy.”

Initiatives, such as Employers together for integration launched on 23 May 2017 at the second meeting of the European Dialogue on Skills and Migration by the European Commission provides employers with the opportunity to learn how they can support refugees and integration into the labour market. Additionally, partnerships with social and economic partners (Brussels, 20 December 2017) are important and were highlighted by speakers, such as Marianne Thyssen, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility.

Learn more on how you can join and sign up to the Commissioner’s initiative here.

European Business Summit is one of the most far-reaching and influential debating and networking platforms in Europe, held annually at the Egmont Palace, Brussels. It attracts over 2,000 participants and 250 high-level speakers, such as Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Trade, Chiara Tomasi, Public Policy and Government Relations Analyst at Google, and Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Foreign Affairs & European Affairs.

 Rustam is a recent graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Belgium and France, who currently works at a Silicon Valley tech company from San Francisco. He shares a vast interest in international relations and entrepreneurship. He has always taken a more unconventional approach in travelling, sharing his experiences and participating at international conferences by contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) between Asia and Europe. 

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