Tuesday was World Refugee Day, a day of awareness for the millions of refugees and asylum seekers who have left their homes unwillingly to pursue a better future. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that over 65.6 million people globally describe themselves as forced migrants or refugees—the highest figure recorded since the agency’s founding 67 years ago.

Behind these startling statistics lies an opportunity for innovative thinking and new solutions. From issue advocacy to long-term infrastructure investment, the private sector is playing a critical role in supporting migrants and refugees. For example:

  • Accenture* worked with the UNHCR to develop the Biometric Identification Management System, which enrolled more than 230,000 refugees and revolutionized the UNHCR registration process by rendering biometrics an acceptable form of identification (many refugees do not have access to  government-issued ID documents due to either institutional incapacity or circumstance).
  • Microsoft Philanthropies developed the education platform YouthSpark Schlaumause (an Arabic to German language training program), which now serves approximately 30,000 refugee children.
  • Goldman Sachs donated over $7.5M to the UNHCR and other affiliated NGOs to help first responders stabilize the crisis, provide medical care, resettle refugees in the UK, and provide children with classrooms and learning materials. The company is also planning to teach entrepreneurial skills through its 10,000 Women program.
  • Alliance members of Chobani* CEO Hamdi Ulukaya’s Tent Foundation commit to hiring refugees, donating goods and services to organizations that improve the lives of displaced people, offering employment training and assistance, and designing supply chains that source products from organization that hire and support refugees. Chobani has also hired many former refugees—who comprise 30 percent of the company’s Twin Falls, Idaho yogurt plant—ingraining them in the business and fostering a culture of true diversity and inclusion. 

These initiatives illustrate the critical role corporations can play in the resettlement process—in a way that is not only authentic to their brand and business capabilities, but also drives business results. Although yesterday was World Refugee Day, every day is an opportunity to pause and remember the struggles that many endure for a better life. As we do so, we must also recognize the many ways that refugee communities, working alongside civil society and business, can benefit the societies where they settle.

*APCO client

New York Intern Meaghan Delaney contributed to this post.

estelle winkleman
Estelle Winkleman

Estelle Winkleman is an associate consultant based in APCO's New York office where she contributes to the development of communications and corporate responsibility programs. Read More