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European consumers back businesses supporting refugees

by Sarah Shearman | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 20 June 2019 17:47 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Former refugee Sherahmad works in the breakfast room of Magdas hotel in Vienna, Austria, November 25, 2016. Picture taken November 25, 2016. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

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Some European companies have started hiring refugees directly or using profits to help refugees start their own businesses

By Sarah Shearman

LONDON, June 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - European consumers say they would be more likely to buy a product if it was sold by a business helping refugees, but most oppose companies lobbying for more to be allowed in, according to a study published on Thursday.

Young consumers and women in particular favoured brands that aid refugees, according to the report, based on a survey of 12,200 consumers in Italy, France and Germany conducted by researchers at New York University's Stern School.

Most said they would be more likely to buy from a brand if it hired refugees or provided refugee entrepreneurs with loans according to the research, funded by the U.S. charity the Tent Partnership for Refugees.

"Businesses in Europe have an opportunity to have a real social impact on an issue that needs business engagement, and to attract more consumers to their brands," said Gideon Maltz, Tent's executive director.

The charity was founded by Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant to the United States who created the top-selling yoghurt brand Chobani.

Although respondents favoured companies that helped refugees, they were less clear over whether brands should lobby for more refugees to enter Europe.

Only 28% of respondents said they would be more likely to buy from a business that advocates for greater refugee resettlement.

From 2015-16, Europe took in 2.7 million refugees.

The influx of people, the biggest since World War Two, has led to greater support for far-right groups and controversial anti-immigration policies.

The numbers of people seeking asylum in the European Union has fallen in recent years but hundreds of thousands of people from countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq continue to journey to Europe.

Some European companies have started hiring refugees directly or using profits to help refugees start their own businesses.

Swedish retail giant IKEA partnered with an organisation employing Jordanian and refugee women in 2017 and Dutch bank ING has provided loans to Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Social enterprises - businesses that aim to do good, as well as make profit - have sought to help refugees settle into new communities such as Vienna's Magdas Hotel, which employs refugees who have been granted asylum.

Other companies including Unilever-owned ice cream brand Ben & Jerry's have called on governments to reduce the waiting period for asylum seekers to work legally.

(Reporting by Sarah Shearman @Shearmans. Editing by Tom Finn and Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and slavery, property rights, social innovation, resilience and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

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