This World Refugee Day, How Can Companies Step Forward?

GlobalGiving’s Ingrid Embree shines a light on organizations that would have welcomed her mother and father—refugees from Latvia—with open arms, not closed doors.


Those were once my father’s eyes. My mother’s.

This World Refugee Day, when I come across photos and stories of refugees on Facebook and Twitter, that’s what I want to remember. Their story is my story—America’s story.

For my family, the story of refugees escaping the destruction of war is still very personal. Though I grew up in a comfortable, middle-class neighborhood in Washington, D.C., my parents began their lives in resettlement camps of occupied Europe, displaced from their native Latvia.

They endured five years of short rations and an uncertain future, but in the end they were among the lucky, eventually making it to America and to safety.

This World Refugee Day, I can’t help but think about the families who may never get a chance to start over, free from violence.

Worldwide, nearly 1 in 100 people are displaced from their homes, the highest share of the population that has been forcibly displaced since 1951. Supporting refugees is not only the compassionate choice, but also proven by studies to be economically rewarding for the countries that welcome them. The International Monetary Fund estimates that one euro invested in welcoming refugees can yield nearly two euros in economic benefits within five years.

Generous gifts and bold actions on behalf of refugees and other social causes payoff for companies, as well. According to the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study, consumers want to support companies with values that match their own—92 percent of consumers say they have a more positive image of a company if it supports a social issue. In fact, many young people are beginning to expect that their favorite brands take initiative on social issues—71 percent of US millennials hope companies will take the lead on the social issues they find important.

So in honor of World Refugee Day on June 20, I want to applaud three companies dedicating their time and resources to refugee causes. I want to shine a light on people that would have welcomed my mother and father with open arms, not closed doors. From Microsoft lawyers providing pro bono defense for refugee children facing deportation, to TripAdvisor’s global donations and local actions, to Google’s informative app for refugee newcomers, these companies are stellar examples of the impact made by today’s top innovators.

Legal Needs

Thousands of refugee and migrant kids arrive in the United States with no parents and nowhere else to go, and under a new policy, those who do arrive with their parents are tragically being separated from them at the border. Most of the children come from Central America to seek safety from violence and other abuse. Microsoft is supporting them with both funding and expertise. The company has donated $1 million each year for the past eight years to Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a network of lawyers they started with actress Angelina Jolie. Last year, Microsoft lawyers also gave 725 hours of their time to help 75 unaccompanied minors at risk of deportation.

Information Needs

In 2015, Google helped raise $5.5 million for organizations aiding refugees and matched that with their own $5.5 million donation. But they didn’t stop there. Next, Google sought ways employees might lend their tech expertise. Working nonprofits and other tech partners, Google developed a web page called “Refugee.Info” that points refugees in Greece, Serbia, and Macedonia to local medical and social services and other critical information.

Resettlement Needs

It is easy to forget the needs of refugees resettled in our own communities when we see such striking images from abroad, but local grants can also go a long way toward helping those newly arrived in the United States. TripAdvisor is addressing the critical needs of refugees all over the world. The TripAdvisor Charitable Foundation pledged $5 million in humanitarian aid, some of which has been awarded to two international nonprofits, Mercy Corps and International Rescue Committee. But TripAdvisor is also supporting smaller, local nonprofits in Massachusetts, where the company is headquartered. They gave a grant to a refugee resettlement organization that supports newcomers in Massachusetts and organized volunteer activities at their office for resettled refugees.

“In the face of one of the world’s most complex humanitarian crises, we are called to action,” said Stephen Kaufer, president and CEO of TripAdvisor.

“Millions of refugees are seeking safe haven, often without safety or clarity around where they will end up, and they truly need our collective support,” Kaufer said.

There are so many other opportunities for companies of all sizes to participate. Companies can raise awareness or funds through a cause marketing campaign. Employers can provide jobs or educational opportunities for refugees. Whatever your intended action, the first step is seeing the humanity in each child, woman, and man impacted by the refugee crisis and pledging to learn more about their needs.

Would you like to take action?

Here are a few ways you can help:

1. Give to one of many GlobalGiving partners helping refugees around the world. GlobalGiving will match all new monthly donations to projects for refugees and displaced people on June 20, World Refugee Day, while funds last.

2. Sign the UNHCR petition to say that you stand #WithRefugees.

3. Share this story with your friends and family on social media.

This article was originally published on June 20, 2017 on HuffPost.

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Featured Banner Photo: By Joshua Baker for Child Refugee Crisis, a GlobalGiving Project by Save the Children Federation

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