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June 20: World Refugee Day – A Call to Action for Businesses

June 20: World Refugee Day – A Call to Action for Businesses
Strategy
Published on:

June 20 is World Refugee Day, designated by the United Nations to honor refugees around the globe and to celebrate the strength and courage of those forced to flee their home countries to escape conflict or persecution. By the end of 2023, UNHCR estimated that over 117 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations, and climate shocks, often a combination of these factors. Notably, nearly 32 million new internal displacements were due to climate-related hazards, highlighting the urgent need to address this issue. It is high noon for us to step up, reach out, engage with this diverse talent pool, and unlock their true potential. 

large crowd of people walking toward a bright light source in the distance_cover

Integrating refugees into businesses

Refugees can help us address the global scarcity of labor and staffing challenges, not limited to higher-educated workers only. A recent major World Bank report on state-of-the-art evidence suggests that the labor force integration of refugees not only leads to large gains for the refugees but also leads to a positive overall gain for the welcoming countries.

 

Greece has enacted legislation granting undocumented migrants residence rights if they secure employment.

 

Several governments have begun to ease legislation to allow companies to recruit more refugees into the workforce. For example, Greece has enacted new legislation granting undocumented migrants residence rights if they secure employment. Similarly, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck recently emphasized that the biggest challenge for Germany's economy is growth constraints due to a workforce shortage.

The organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry estimates that by 2030, there will be a global talent shortage of over 85 million people, translating to approximately €7.8 trillion ($8.5 trillion) in unrealized annual revenues.

Leading by example: Ben & Jerry's and the Adecco Group

In response to the growing labor market pressures, some companies have taken proactive steps to employ refugees. Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's and The Adecco Group, the world’s second-largest human resources firm, are exemplary in this regard. Ben & Jerry's has implemented a refugee entrepreneurship program, advocacy initiatives, and campaigns to support refugees' right to work, open job opportunities for them, and help them integrate into the workforce.

The Adecco Group collaborates with clients and partners to integrate refugees into companies by offering intensive French language training, vocational training, and specific onboarding processes. Adecco France has provided over 3,000 jobs for refugees and over 4,600 jobs through all its business units in France. Globally, The Adecco Group has supported and provided jobs to 16,000 people with refugee status.

Both Adecco and Ben & Jerry's view refugee-related issues as opportunities, recognizing refugees as an untapped talent pool that can be nurtured and capitalized upon. Ben & Jerry’s, as part of Unilever, actively integrates refugee entrepreneurs into its supply chain. The company has even launched new ice cream flavors, such as turmeric and cardamom, reflecting the diverse backgrounds of its workforce. At Adecco, the largest private employer in France, 70 to 85 percent of refugees in work programs secure long-term employment, benefiting both Adecco’s client companies and local communities.

Dispelling three myths about refugees

Despite the positive impacts, stigma and misunderstanding around refugees persist. We address three myths that are particularly destructive:

Myth 1: Climate change is a future risk. Reality: The reality is that millions of people are already displaced due to climate change. This urgent issue requires immediate policy solutions.

Myth 2: Climate-induced migration is a new type of migration. Reality: Most migrations are multi-causal, with economic and conflict-related reasons often intertwined. These interconnected causes require comprehensive policy responses.

Myth 3: Migration is a threat to society. Reality: As one Ben & Jerry’s executive stated, “I don’t know a newcomer (refugee) who doesn't want to integrate. They are incredibly loyal if given the opportunity, passionate, and hardworking, bringing a rich diversity of experiences.” The diversity brought by refugees can lead to innovative products and inclusive work environments. Refugees bring a unique intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial spirit. 

A Call to Action

Businesses have a critical role to play in addressing one of the most pressing societal issues in human history. Integrating refugees is not only a moral imperative but also a business necessity. By recognizing, nurturing, and leveraging refugees as talent, and creating the conditions for refugees to integrate and flourish at work, businesses can drive social justice and economic growth.
 

In a conference organized by the S&O Institute and the HEC UK House in London on January 23, 2024, academics and businesses shed light on the complex reality of forced migration and the imperative for businesses to play a positive role in this global challenge. The key discussion emphasized the potential mutual benefits for businesses and communities in actively welcoming and supporting refugees. The vibrant testimonials from Ben & Jerry's and The Adecco Group gave hope on how bold and brave businesses can engage to help refugees integrate into our communities and contribute to our economies. Watch the filmed conference, with Bénédicte Faivre-Tavignot, Laura Saint Lo, François Gemenne, Marieke Huystentruyt, Behishta Nazir, Jessie Macneil-Brown (Ben&Jerry's) and Raphaëlle Thirion (The Adecco Group).


Learn more about the conference in this article.

Learn more about the research "Corporate Social Responsibility, Financial Materiality, and the Challenges of Forced Migration" by HEC Paris professors Leandro Nardi and Marieke Huysentruyt, published in The Academy of Management, 2022.

 

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