There's an international refugee crisis unfolding, with millions of people fleeing their homes to avoid natural disasters, war, and other threats. Fortunately, organizations like USA for UNHCR, the UN Refugee agency, are working on their own and with corporate partners to assist in providing safety, homes, and resources for these refugees--but even with their efforts, UNHCR estimates that without more support, they can only reach 1 out of every 4 Syrian refugees that will be at risk this winter. With 200,000 displaced families in Syria, 196,000 in Iraq, 174,000 in Lebanon, 115,000 in Turkey, and 83,000 in Jordan, this isn't a crisis that can be resolved simply or quickly.

Fortunately, many large American companies are setting a good example, doing their part to provide help or protection however they can.

The Most Active Companies

These are some of the most active companies stepping up to the cause:

1. UPS. The UPS Foundation recently donated $14 million to a collection of NGOs, non-profits, and UN organizations like the UNHCR. Specifically, UPS is working with UNHCR on their UPS Relief Link program, which is designed to expedite the delivery of essential supplies like food, water, blankets, and other items to refugees. So far, UPS Relief Link has reached more than 120,000 refugees, cutting delivery times by an estimated 50 percent. The program also provides emergency preparedness supply training to refugees.

2. IKEA. IKEA has also partnered with UNHCR on a project called Brighter Lives for Refugees. In the program, IKEA pledged to donate a portion of all sales of light bulbs and lamps between 2014 and 2015. With more than 300 stores in 40 countries participating in the program, IKEA was able to raise more than $33.4 million for renewable energy sources to be used by refugee families in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

3. Lyft. In response to Trump's travel ban early in 2017, Lyft broke form for the industry by pledging a donation of $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), to be paid over the next four years. In an email sent to Lyft customers, its co-founders remarked, "Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft and our nation's core values... We stand firmly against the actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the value of our community."

4. Airbnb. In 2016, Airbnb launched its Belong Anywhere campaign, designed to help refugees and others in need. Throughout the program, the company was able to raise more than $1 million, and matched $800,000 of that money in a grant to UNHCR. Ultimately, $1.6 million went to buying aid for refugees, with another $200,000 of travel credits going to non-profit organizations supporting refugees around the world.

5. Starbucks. Starbucks has announced its commitment to helping refugees find security and safety, pledging to hire 10,000 refugees by 2022. Starbucks has also joined UNHCR's #WithRefugees campaign, and has partnered with non-governmental organizations like the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and the United States' own No One Left Behind organization.

6. Walmart. After Trump's travel ban in 2017, hiring refugees became a statement of opposition, and of support for the millions of refugees worldwide. In the wake of that controversy, the leader in refugee hiring was an unlikely candidate--Walmart, with 79 refugees hired.

How Your Business Can Help

You don't need to be a mega-corporation to do your part to help the refugee crisis. There are several steps you can take, regardless of your budget or time constraints, to help the refugee crisis.

For example:

  • Donate to an organization that can help refugees efficiently. If you don't have the resources or capacity to help refugees yourself, consider donating to an organization that can.
  • Offer accommodations or housing. Offering shelter or other accommodations to refugees is probably the best thing you can do, as long as you have the resources to do it.
  • Offer jobs. If you have openings, consider offering them to refugees who are starting over.
  • Raise awareness. Even if you don't have money to donate, you can do your part by raising awareness of the refugee crisis to your customers and through your media outlets.

Working together is the only way to solve--or at least improve--the refugee crisis. Take inspiration from these major companies, and do what you can to provide for refugees in your area.

Published on: Jan 29, 2018