May 14, 2019

Dutch private sector makes commitments to refugees

Last month, SPARK was invited to participate in the launch of the Tent Partnership for Refugees in Europe during its first ever Dutch Business Summit on Refugees. The event, co-hosted by Accenture, Rabobank and Unilever – three of Holland’s leading private sector brands – took place in the central Utrecht headquarters of the Rabobank.  

As we took our seats, some of the country’s top executives and CEOs filled the room. The man who had brought them all together? Hamdi Ulukaya: a Kurdish immigrant who was raised in eastern Turkey on a dairy farm, who went on to found the number one Greek yoghurt brand in the United States, Chobani, which now sees $1 billion in annual sales.

In 2015, Hamdi founded the Tent Partnership for Refugees with the aim of encouraging the world’s private sector organisations to employ, train and support refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Addressing Dutch business leaders, Hamdi said: “Supporting refugees isn’t just the right thing, it’s the smart thing for businesses to do”.

Sixteen major Dutch companies, including Shell, ING and Philips, convinced of the need to support refugees find jobs, went on to announce their new commitments to supporting refugees in the Netherlands and abroad (see below). In total, the commitments will lead to 3,500 jobs for refugees and improved access to services for more than 10,000.

While the sentiment is strong, still more can be offered by the private sector to provide refugees with stable employment opportunities. The private sector should not only see the CSR (corporate social responsibility) case for employing refugees but actually view refugee employment and investment as a serious business opportunity.

Research has shown that migrants are twice as likely than native-born citizens to start their own businesses, the World Bank suggests that increasing migration could lead to a 3% rise in developed nation’s workforces, generating $356 billion in global gains, and in Prof. Alexander Betts’ 2014 study he found that refugees boost local economies significantly due to the additional purchasing power, creation of employment and human capital. So why are private sector still apprehensive to make larger commitments?

SPARK, an NGO, has long been advocating and lobbying for private sector organisations to engage in the global refugee crisis, so that the three key stakeholders – NGOs, policymakers and the private sector – can work together. In the past, for example, we have partnered with Heineken in Burundi and during Tent’s Dutch Business Summit on Refugees, our new private sector partner, ING, also announced our joint commitment to create 2,200 new jobs in Turkey. ING will provide a loan of €10m to help launch 24 new businesses by Syrian refugees and vulnerable Turks from hosting communities.

View all the commitments:

  1. ING’s Head of Impact Finance, Roy Budjhawan, announced that, in partnership with SPARK, ING will create 2,200 new jobs in Turkey by providing a loan of €10m to help launch 24 new businesses by Syrian refugees and vulnerable Turks from hosting communities.
  2. Philips announced workplaces for 100 refugees between 2019-2024 in the Netherlands and Germany. Philips Foundation will support a 50-bed field hospital in the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria.
  3. Unilever committed to improving hygiene for Syrian refugees in Lebanon with limited access to clean water and sanitation infrastructure. The Lifebuoy partnership will support 10,000 Syrian refugee mothers and their children over the next 12 months with community behavior change programs and access to soap products that promote healthy hygiene.
  4. Accenture will hire 100 refugees, establish 150 new mentorship opportunities, organise 15 IT skills training events and invite at least 10 business partners to support the integration of refugee talent. Overall, by 2025, Accenture will invest €1m in refugee employment integration in the Netherlands.
  5. Rabobank will offer 60 refugees job opportunities, work experience placements, internships or IT training courses.
  6. Shell, over the next 3 years, will address the energy access challenge for refugees, with an initial focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. Shell will equip people with the relevant data, skills and financial mechanisms to build local energy markets.
  7. Signify Foundation will improve energy access and livelihood opportunities in Rhino camp in northwestern Uganda by providing 5 community lighting centers with solar powered LED lighting systems that will reach 5,000 refugees over the next two years. 30 refugees will be trained to provide maintenance and management of the centers.
  8. ABN AMRO will hire 80 refugees by 2021 as part of the Reboot programme, which was launched in 2017 to help refugees find employment at ABN AMRO in the Netherlands.
  9. Hilton will impact 10,000 refugees in Europe by 2030 through hospitality training programmes, in-kind donations to refugee centers, supply chain opportunities through the procurement of services from businesses run by refugees or that employ refugees, and the employment of refugees.
  10. HP will pilot the HP School Cloud, a new technology which brings open education resources to rural and underserved communities, to improve education outcomes for refugees in Uganda.
  11. ManpowerGroup will connect 250 refugees to sustainable employment in the Netherlands by 2020. ManpowerGroup will do this by building on its efforts in 2018, which connected 500 employees with jobs in the Netherlands.
  12. Randstad aims to reach an additional 1,000 refugees over the next 2 years in European countries like Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, as well as Australia.
  13. Dura Vermeer will hire and find employment for at least 45 refugees over the next three years with permanent positions in the construction industry in the Netherlands. Dura Vermeer will also support a non-profit to prepare refugees for entrance into the labor market, by offering internships at Dura Vermeer.
  14. Asito will hire at least 50 refugees over the next 2 years, offering full-time positions where possible.
  15. Dental Care Professionals will help 60 refugees with a dentistry or dental technician background to find work in a Dutch dental practice in the next three years.
  16. Arcadis will hire 45 refugees across Europe over the next three years, as part of its diversity and inclusion programmes.