When Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya began hiring refugees at his factory in New York after he noticed they were struggling to find other jobs, he also helped kickstart Wave of other corporate commitments To hire refugees. But since most refugees live in the developing world – where corporations often do not work directly – Ulukaya is now adding a new approach. in an initiative called unstuckBrands including Chobani are making products from suppliers who have also agreed to hire refugees.
“We thought we could make it a win-win,” Ulukaya says. “If a company incentivizes its supply chain to hire refugees” [to work] on the products they’re making for themselves, and if we’ve activated consumers who are really passionate about this topic in the Western world—who say, ‘I’ll buy your product if it’s in any other part of the world. I’m helping someone’ – that could be very interesting.”
The first group of products from the brand’s new coalition focuses on supporting refugees from Venezuela, where more than 5 million people have fled violence, economic collapse and political repression. More than 2 million people from Venezuela have moved into neighboring Colombia, which is struggling to handle the influx of people. The new initiative helps create new employment opportunities for refugees.
Chobani’s new product with the Unstuck label, for example, a yogurt made from tropical fruit, contains mangoes from CEA, a supplier in Colombia that now hires refugees because of the program. “The CEA was interested in setting up a refugee-recruitment program, and had actually tried to recruit Venezuelan refugees in the past,” says Nick O’Flaherty, director of Unstuck. It is an initiative of the Tent Partnership for Refugees, the non-profit Ulukaya founded in 2016 that asks companies to commit to supporting refugees. “But they were unsure about the procedures and requirements, or the additional support needed to provide refugee talent.” The Unstuck team paired the company with a non-profit partner, Cuso International, to help recruit, train, and work with refugees for the program.
The name “Unstuck” refers to the important role that jobs play in the lives of refugees; Ulukaya says refugees often feel “trapped” upon arrival in another country and unable to move on. “Their careers and education are on hold, and they lack access to basic services like health, education and banking, and the support networks they have at home,” the Unstuck website explains. “A job is the best first step to start a new life.”
A few other brands have also just launched unstuck labels and ingredients from suppliers are now hiring refugees. Coffee roaster La Colombe is selling a new medium-roasted coffee. That It, a snack company, is selling Mango Probiotic Fruit Bars. Goodpop is selling Mango Chili Popsicles. Petit Pot is selling chocolate sweets. Pitaya Foods is selling two new snacks, an avocado version and a passion-fruit version. The team is now recruiting more brands to participate and plans to later expand to other regions where some of the world’s 36 million refugees live. “I think it’s something we can unite around,” Ulukaya says.