Thursday, February 1, 2018

Corporate Social Responsibility: The Solution to the Refugee Crisis?


Corporate Social Responsibility: The Solution to the Refugee Crisis?
By Shoka Marefat, MBA

AGI: Rome was a once in a life time experience to study Humanitarian Service Management. I got spend the experience with peers who want to change the world, whilst being immersed in Rome where we had the best food, wine, culture and surroundings. Most importantly we were immersed in the day to day struggle of refugees in Italy and the social workers, lawyers, NGOs, and government officials who work to help these refugees become autonomous. From meetings with Doctors Without Borders, UNHCR, Centro Astalli, JRS, Save the Children, Caritas to an audience with the Pope to meeting Suzie a remarkable refugee from Cameroon, it gave me hope that human decency will prevail. But it what context will this human decency succeed?

There has been a dominant international approach taken towards the refugee crisis. Concentrated in a small number of host countries, close to war zones, displaced people have been settled in what have become known as “humanitarian silos”. Said silos are usually remote, dangerous and almost always have strict prohibitions on socio-economic activity. They are designed to deal only with the emergency phase of refugee intake, this model leaves refugees stranded for years at a time. This strategy undermines autonomy and dignity. Inevitably, these disillusioned peoples aim to reach urban areas in the host nation often risking their lives crossing oceans to other countries. With traditional actors struggling to cope with the ever-growing global refugee crisis, there is one truth for certain the private sector has an important role to play.

Social issues and human rights have become increasingly politicized causing a power struggle
between humanitarian agencies and global governments. With 65.6 million forcibly displaced
people worldwide an answer to this human cataclysm is beyond vital. Private companies are
stepping up to create market-driven solutions to some of the world’s most pressing needs with
primary focus being placed on the refugee crisis. The role of corporate social responsibility can
be more sustainable and far reaching than humanitarian or government interventions.
On January 29, 2017, Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, released a letter to Starbucks’
employees and partners outlining a company initiative to hire 10,000 refugees over the next
five years in the 75 countries.

Companies like Starbucks providing employment to refugees, are creating mutually beneficial opportunities. Through this initiative refugees are able to gain skills, earn a living, become economically independent, and integrate into the economy as contributors and consumers. The private sector is a powerful agent for change because it is market-driven and therefore provides sustainable, stable opportunities for refugees who live in state of constant instability and dependency on foreign aid organizations. If Starbucks accomplishes its goal of hiring 10,000 resettled refugees, it will become one of the single largest employers of refugees, making the Seattle-based coffee company a dominant force for social impact. Not only is this initiative a moral duty, it is smart business. 

Unfortunately, we live in a time where capitalism is king and human beings are annihilated. We live in a society that is motivated by gains. CSR is a win, win. Conscious capitalism can flourish the global economy and resolve the global refugee crisis. The corporations that recognize that their power and global footprint can enact a change humanity is desperate for, must be responsible and conscientious in their actions. 65.6 million people and growing deserve to live humanely, peacefully, and autonomously. The current solutions are “Band-Aids,” social entrepreneurship seems to be long-lasting solution.