Tent was founded in 2016 by Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder and CEO of Chobani, to mobilize the business community to improve the lives and livelihoods of refugees around the world. Today, we are a network of over 130 major businesses. These include companies like Teleperformance, Genpact, Telefonica, Microsoft, Airbnb and many more who are committed to integrating refugees economically in their new host communities. Tent works with these businesses to develop initiatives that integrate refugees in their core business operations. For example, we’ll advise companies on how they can best hire refugees, integrate refugees into their supply chains, support refugee entrepreneurs, and tailor products to better meet the needs of refugee communities.
Do you consider what you're doing 'impact sourcing'?
Impact sourcing is a relatively new area for companies, but one that is quickly gaining ground as businesses consider how they can become a socially responsible company across the spectrum of their operations. With impact sourcing, they do so by prioritizing suppliers that intentionally hire people who would otherwise have limited prospects for formal employment. We see tremendous potential for the BPO sector to create additional employment opportunities for refugees worldwide, and we encourage companies in our network – including both BPO firms and buyers of BPO services – to integrate refugees into their BPO operations, thereby contributing to the impact sourcing movement.
Why is the work you are doing supporting refugees so important?
Unfortunately, the refugee crisis is here to stay. Around the world, we are seeing the highest number of refugees since the Second World War, with approximately 30 million refugees worldwide. What’s more, refugees are being displaced for longer and longer periods of time, meaning their economic integration is increasingly important. This is an area where businesses can make a huge impact. When refugees resettle in a new country, they often face increased barriers to entering the workforce because they may not yet speak the language, or they may have gaps in their resumes as a result of their displacement. By actively thinking about how businesses can make their hiring practices more inclusive, companies can successfully integrate refugees into their workforce. Not only is this good for society, businesses can also benefit considerably by being more inclusive of refugees.
Why will it continue to grow in the future, especially with millennial consumers interested in having a social impact?
Tent and New York University’s Stern School of Business have carried out research in Europe, the U.S. and Latin America that shows that all consumers - but especially millennials and Gen Z - are more likely to buy from brands that are supporting refugees. This means that hiring refugees can enhance a company’s reputation, but also impact the bottom line. We also know that social impact is an important consideration for millennials in deciding where to work. It also is a big driver of employee engagement. Therefore, being inclusive of refugees can be an important way to attract, retain and motivate talent.
How has COVID-19 impacted your mission?
Eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the worst fears of the health threat to refugees have so far – almost miraculously – not come to pass. This has been thanks to the fantastic work of organizations such as the UN Refugee Agency that have worked tirelessly to implement measures to keep refugees safe. However, the economic impact on refugees around the world has been devastating, and it has laid bare the challenges that refugees in every society face in building productive new lives. Fundamentally, the disproportionate impact of the economic crisis on refugees lays bare a longstanding challenge: that refugees face steep barriers to integrating into the economy where they live. That is, refugees have been far more likely to lose jobs and income during the COVID-19 crisis than their compatriots because they had less access to decent jobs in the first place. Our mission has never been more important – and the business community has a critical role to play in addressing this challenge by helping refugees integrate into the economy.
What are your goals in terms of jobs created, employees trained, companies involved, etc.?
To date, the 130-plus companies in the Tent Partnership pledged to hire more than 39,000 refugees, support 5,000-plus refugee entrepreneurs, and reach more than 144,000 refugee customers with tailored products. We know there is a lot of momentum behind our cause. On Oct. 6, 28 major global companies including Bloomberg, Virgin Management, BNP Paribas and many others, joined the Tent Partnership, demonstrating their commitment to integrating refugees as economies begin to rebuild from COVID-19.
Tell me how IAOP can partner with Tent and the benefits of partnerships like this?
Tent and IAOP are excited to come together to encourage the BPO sector to deepen its support for refugees. This partnership is a win-win for both of our organizations. While Tent offers expertise on how the business community can integrate refugees into their workforces and supply chains, IAOP has served as a leader of the impact sourcing movement and is mobilizing companies in its network to support vulnerable populations through their BPO operations. Together, we will be able to encourage BPO firms and buyers of BPO services to explore how refugee hiring can have a positive impact on their communities.
How can outsourcing providers get involved and what are the benefits?
We would be thrilled to provide pro bono support to outsourcing providers that are interested in hiring refugees. This includes helping outsourcing providers develop a strategy for how to integrate refugees, as well as connecting the companies to local NGOs that can help them recruit refugee talent.
There are considerable benefits for outsourcing providers to hire refugees. The BPO industry typically has a 25 percent turnover rate, and hiring refugees is a proven way to address this challenge. Research by Tent and the Fiscal Policy Institute found that refugees have significantly lower turnover rates than their peers across multiple industries. In addition, providing refugees with jobs tangibly improves their lives and helps them support their families financially. Bringing refugees and local communities together in the workplace is the quickest route to social integration.
We see particular opportunities to work with outsourcing providers with operations in Colombia. Today, Colombia hosts 2 million refugees who have fled instability and turmoil in Venezuela, and there is a critical need for the business community to help integrate them into the Colombian economy. Numerous global outsourcing providers, such as Teleperformance, have already hired Venezuelan refugees in Colombia and are keen to continue to do so as this is a population with a strong work ethic, professionalism and advanced language abilities. At Tent, we are eager to work with BPO firms in Colombia to help them think about how they can better integrate refugees. We are also exploring encouraging buyers of BPO services around the world to outsource more work to Colombia to support these refugee hiring efforts.