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Press Release

Global Business Leaders: The Sustainable Development Goals Will Not Be Achieved If Refugees Continue to be Excluded

Businesses across sectors call on governments to take stronger action to improve the lives of refugees

Today, business leaders from across industries, including Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group and Co-Founder of The B Team, and Matthew McCarthy, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s, drew attention to and demanded action on a major issue threatening the success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): the lack of refugee inclusion.

In an event convened by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) on behalf of the Business Refugee Action Network (BRAN) and moderated by Christine Romans, CNN’s chief business correspondent, business leaders came together to show their ongoing commitment to improving the lives of refugees. Speakers, who included Branson; David Miliband, president and CEO of the IRC; and Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Chair, the Elders and former UN Secretary-General all noted the critical role businesses play in creating opportunity for refugees.

“Without bold commitments and action to course correct the growing misery of victims of conflict in fragile states around the world, the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved,” said David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. “Now, more than ever before, business has a critical role to play in tackling the situation of the most vulnerable. It includes funding programs that provide refugees with opportunities to regain control of their futures, advocating for policies that support refugee access and inclusion, and building markets that create economic opportunities for refugees.”

Sir Richard Branson added, “The number of refugees worldwide has reached unprecedented proportions. As this global crisis intensifies, exacerbated by oppression, armed conflict, and the climate crisis, all of us – governments, business, civil society – must do more to foster a better climate for inclusion. Refugees should be welcome wherever they knock at the door. That’s why business stands with refugees, and that’s why we are calling for the right kinds of humane policies that will support integration and bring an end to further suffering.”

“At a time when so many people have been displaced around the world, and too many policy makers promote building walls and scapegoating refugees, business leaders must help meet the needs of those who seek refuge in our communities,” said Matthew McCarthy, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s. “We must also commit to using our privileged platform as CEOs to hold world leaders accountable for helping solve the root causes driving refugee crises. The inclusion of refugees into the SDGs can be a powerful way to do just that.”

“For the SDGs to succeed, we need to create conditions where every person can succeed,” said Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of The B Team. “This is especially true when it comes to refugees who need not just inclusion, but to rebuild agency over their lives and livelihoods. Business can offer refugees jobs that help them regain social and economic stability. Business can also call on governments to join them in solving the global refugee crisis, which will only escalate as global conflicts emerge and evolve and our climate crisis displaces more and more people.”

“The business community is key to solving the refugee crisis. I started the Tent Partnership with the goal of building a global network of companies committed to hiring refugees, investing in refugee businesses and providing goods and services for refugees,” said Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of the Tent Partnership for Refugees and founder & CEO of Chobani. “The moment a refugee has a job and can provide for her or his family, that’s the moment they stop being a refugee. That’s why I’m here and why I support the inclusion of refugees in the Sustainable Development Goals. We must restore human dignity.”

In a statement, companies from across the private sector, including Microsoft, Citi, and Unilever, as well as philanthropic organizations such as the IKEA Foundation, emphasized their ongoing support for refugees, spanning from hiring to investment and funding for humanitarian response and livelihoods. They are also calling on governments to do more, starting with refugee inclusion in their SDG plans and measurement of their progress.

The event and call-to-action by prominent business leaders coincides with the release of a report by the IRC, which found the SDGs are failing to include refugees and as a result, will not be achieved for all by 2030. This follows from research released by IRC and the Overseas Development Institute last year, supported by Citi and Unilever, that showed up to 82% of fragile and conflict affected states are off track to achieve the SDGs.

To learn more about refugee inclusion in the Sustainable Development goals, visit: https://www.rescue.org/article/equality-everyone-planet-how-do-we-get-there

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 26 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.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 European 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

The Tent Partnership for Refugees, founded by Chobani’s Hamdi Ulukaya, is mobilizing the business community to improve the lives and livelihoods of more than 25 million refugees forcibly displaced from their home countries. Tent believes that the business community is uniquely positioned to address the global refugee crisis by mobilizing the networks, resources, innovation, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the business community – and that companies have the greatest impact they leverage their core business operations to hire refugees, integrate them into supply chains, invest in refugees, and deliver services to them. The full list of over 130 Tent members can be found here. Learn more about Tent: http://www.tent.org.