Today is World Refugee Day. In honor of this special day, we’d like to take this opportunity to remember that there's an international refugee crisis unfolding. The number of people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution increased in 2018 for the seventh year in a row, to a record 70.8 million.
In 2018, the U.S. agreed to take 45,000 refugees, down from 110,000 in 2017 (it ultimately took in far less). This year it has set its quota at just 30,000. As long as the U.S. lags behind its commitment to admit refugees, we not only risk missing opportunities to alleviate the refugee crisis, but also the opportunity to strengthen businesses.
Fortunately, recognizing the talents and contributions of refugees, leading American companies are actively stepping up the cause including UPS, IKEA, Lyft, Airbnb, Walmart, and Starbucks, among others. For an increasing number of companies and investors, the refugee crisis is becoming both an economic and philanthropic opportunity.
Here are 5 reasons why supporting refugees means good business for everyone:
1. Employing refugees means higher retention rates, easier recruitment, and better management.
In a new study, the Tent Foundation — which was founded by Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya with the goal of mobilizing the private sector to support and empower refugees — found that refugees who have resettled in the U.S. tend to stick with their employers longer and also help recruit other dedicated refugee employees. Of the employers interviewed, 73% reported higher retention rates for refugees than for the workforce as a whole.
Another added benefit the study found of employing refugees was an improved ability by leadership to manage a diverse workforce. Lower turnover coupled with better management translates into efficiency and ROI for companies.
It should come as no surprise that refugees are highly motivated workers given the rigorous process they endure to be granted entry to the United States. Refugees understand that employment is the vital to attaining self-sufficiency and being integrated into their new communities. As such, they’re willing to go above and beyond to maintain that job (i.e. showing up early, staying late).
2. Investing in corporate gifts that empower refugees demonstrates that your company honors and follows through on diversity and inclusion.
Many companies think hiring refugees is the only action they can take to make a difference. It's not. That’s why Gifts for Good partners with social enterprises like Prosperity Candle and Sitti Soap who make incredible products that help refugee men and women integrate and find work.
Last month, AMN Healthcare partnered with Gifts for Good to give corporate gifts that empower refugee women to their fleet of 7,000 travel nurses for their nation-wide “Nurses Week” celebration. AMN customized our Three Soap Gift Set, handcrafted by women inside a refugee camp, with the brand message of ‘You Inspire Me.’
By demonstrating the benefits of employing and investing in refugees — and advocating for the empowerment of underserved women through their corporate gifts — AMN Healthcare turned “social responsibility” from a source of good PR into a true source of pride and inspiration among their employees.
3. Developing goods and services that refugees need is a great opportunity for expansion.
Every refugee is a potential consumer. Identifying their particular unmet needs can be a great business opportunity for companies that are willing to innovate; helping them to expand their audience and customer base, enhancing product development activities, and opening up an entirely new set of targets for business partnerships.
For example, in places where refugees still lack access to credit and financial services, crowdfunding platform Kiva has launched a program that allows people anywhere to lend them money to start or expand businesses via its website. And in refugee communities around the globe, leading mobile providers have benefitted from reaching agreements with local mobile network operators to replace the cell towers in refugee settlements and to start selling phones and SIM cards to refugees. As a bonus, people and businesses living nearby benefited, both from the boosted phone reception and from being able to sell products to refugees who could now receive electronic cash transfers.
4. Serving refugees can be a good source of PR and “social responsibility.”
The private sector can bring skills and expertise to bear on problems that the traditional aid sector may be less well-equipped to solve. For example, Airbnb partnered with NGOs to connect Airbnb hosts with refugee families in need of short-term accommodation at no cost.
By innovating their business models to help refugee-serving organizations deliver more aid on the ground, companies bolster their corporate social responsibility agendas — which are often strong drivers for publicity.
5. Investments in refugees enable companies to live their core values and fulfill their mission.
For example, 'Belonging' is a core value at the center of Airbnb's business — so providing safe accommodation for refugees enables them to fulfill the company mission.
Overall, companies need to continue to do their part and help give the millions of men, women, and children who’ve lost everything create the future they deserve. It’s not a choice, but a responsibility. Plus, between the ROI associated with employing and empowering refugees, and the opportunities for business expansion, it’s good for the bottom line too.