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Press Release

Global business leaders warn that refugees are being further left behind in progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals due to COVID-19

Businesses and non-profit organisations join the International Rescue Committee, Ben & Jerry’s, Virgin, The B Team and Tent in calling on governments to improve the lives of refugees

Today, following the virtual opening of the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, businesses and non-profit leaders from across industries demanded action from governments to include refugees in progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in the wake of COVID-19 and systemic racism and xenophobia.

In a statement released by the Business Refugee Action Network (BRAN), global business leaders came together to show their ongoing commitment to improving the lives of refugees, noting the critical role businesses play both in directly creating opportunities for refugees and the powerful voice they have in advocating for them.

Signatories warn that as the spread of COVID-19 plunges countries into health and economic crisis, refugee progress towards the SDGs is in peril. Countries already affected by fragility, conflict and displacement will struggle more than ever to protect refugee populations from hunger and economic hardship

“A failure to take a stand for refugees now – as COVID-19 and systemic racism threaten to erode what progress has been made toward the SDGs – will mean a failure to achieve the Goals for all by 2030,” said David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. “Now, more than ever before, the private sector must be a driving force for change in building more inclusive and equitable societies.

“They can directly fund the humanitarian COVID-19 response and livelihood programmes that help refugees regain control of their futures. And they can also use their voice to lobby governments for policies that support refugee inclusion and call for an end to decades of racist and xenophobic hostility toward refugees.”

“The millions of displaced people around the world were already facing unimaginable hardship – imagine being forced to flee your home, only to find you can’t access decent work, or face systemic racism and xenophobia, once you find refuge,” said Matthew McCarthy, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s. “Businesses already had a responsibility to take a stand for refugees and use their voice to hold world leaders accountable for change, especially in the pursuit of the SDGs. But now, as COVID-19 threatens to roll back what progress we might have made, that voice needs to be louder than ever.”

“The world is facing a convergence of crises, from COVID-19 to systemic racism to climate, leaving refugee populations even more vulnerable to harm and marginalisation. These challenges make the aims of the SDGs even more important,” said Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of The B Team. “Neglecting to take a stand for refugee inclusion at this moment means neglecting to take responsibility for a just and inclusive recovery—a choice no leader, in business or government, can afford to make.”

BRAN is joined in its statement by leading companies from across the private sector, including Citi, Uber and Novartis, among others, as well as philanthropic organisations such as the IKEA Foundation. In addition to emphasising their ongoing support for refugees, from hiring to investment and funding for humanitarian response and livelihoods support, they collectively call on governments to ensure refugees are included in global progress toward the SDGs by creating national policies for refugee inclusion and mitigating the impacts of COVID-19.

To read the statement in full, visit: www.rescue-uk.org/Business


About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.

About the Business Refugee Action Network (BRAN)

The International Rescue Committee (IRC), Ben & Jerry’s, Virgin, the Tent Partnership for Refugees (Tent) and The B Team established BRAN to improve the lives of refugees globally through the influence, action and innovation of businesses. BRAN supports refugees by creating a business community that fosters innovative approaches to improving the lives and economic opportunities of refugees. BRAN also increasing refugees’ opportunities by mobilizing business to influence key national, regional and global policy debates. Learn more at https://www.rescue-uk.org/Business.

About Virgin

Virgin is a leading international investment group and one of the world's most recognized and respected brands. Conceived in 1970 by Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Group has gone on to grow successful businesses in sectors including mobile telephony, travel & transportation, financial services, leisure & entertainment and health & wellness.

About Ben & Jerry’s

As an aspiring social justice company, Ben & Jerry's believes in a greater calling than simply making a profit for selling its goods. The company produces a wide variety of super-premium ice cream, yogurt and sorbet using high-quality ingredients. Ben & Jerry's incorporates its vision of Linked Prosperity into its business practices in a number of ways including a focus on values-led sourcing. In 2015 the company completed its transition to using entirely non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) ingredients by source as well as to fully source Fairtrade-certified ingredients wherever possible, which benefits farmers in developing countries. Ben & Jerry's products are distributed in 35 countries in supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, franchise Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shops, restaurants and other venues. Ben & Jerry's, a Vermont corporation and wholly-owned subsidiary of Unilever, operates its business on a three-part Mission Statement emphasizing product quality, economic reward and a commitment to the community. Ben & Jerry's became a certified B Corp in 2012. The Ben & Jerry's Foundation's employee-led grant programs totaled $2.9MM in 2018 to support grassroots organizing for social and environmental justice around the country.

About The B Team

The B Team is a global collective of business and civil society leaders working to create new norms of corporate leadership today, for a better tomorrow. Together, these leaders are holding themselves and their peers accountable for a new way of doing business—one that measures success not only by financial performance, but also by the health of people and our planet—for the benefit of generations to come.

The B Team was co-founded by Sir Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz, and includes Leaders Ajay Banga Oliver Bäte, Marc Benioff, Sharan Burrow, Kathy Calvin, David Crane, Emmanuel Faber, Christiana Figueres, Mats Granryd, Arianna Huffington, Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Yolanda Kakabadse, Isabelle Kocher, Guilherme Leal, Andrew Liveris, Indra Nooyi, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, François- Henri Pinault, Paul Polman, Mary Robinson, Ratan Tata, Hamdi Ulukaya, Zhang Yue and Professor Muhammad Yunus.

About the Tent Partnership for Refugees

With more and more refugees displaced for longer periods of time, businesses have a critical role to play in helping refugees integrate economically in their new host communities. The Tent Partnership for Refugees mobilizes the global business community to improve the lives and livelihoods of 30 million refugees who have been forcibly displaced from their home countries. Founded by Chobani’s founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya in 2016, we are a network of over 100 major companies committed to including refugees. Tent believes that companies can most sustainably support refugees by leveraging their core business operations – by engaging refugees as potential employees, entrepreneurs and consumers. The full list of Tent members can be found here. Find out more at www.tent.org.