As the number of people displaced by force exceeds 50 million for the "first time in the post-World War II era," the focus on refugees is reaching a fever pitch. Next week marks National Refugee Advocacy Week in the U.S., focused on raising awareness "about the need for improved policies and services to help refugees rebuild their lives in the United States." Although many leading organizations have worked to help refugees on an international level, such as UPS Foundation's* ReliefLink(TM) effort to improve logistics at refugee sites, and Ikea Foundation's work to create better homes on refugee camps, one company has stepped in to provide aid to those creating new homes here in the U.S.
Chipotle, primarily known for its Food with Integrity campaign, has been a quiet supporter of refugees who are creating new roots in the U.S. For the past few years, the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation has provided grants to support the International Rescue Committee's (IRC) New Roots Program, and is currently in the midst of a two-year commitment to finance the program's MicroProducer Program. The initiative helps farmers adapt to American urban farming techniques and allows participants to grow produce to feed their families and sell to farmers markets. The program grew more than $1 million in produce in 2013 and expanded to an additional four cities last year. Beyond simply providing funding, Chipotle has purchased produce grown in the program and provides job training to refugees. According to Chipotle's company blog, the company hires between 70-75 percent of applicants referred by the IRC, an astounding rate given the company typically hires between 5-10 percent of people who apply to Chipotle restaurants.
While the correlation between refugees and Chipotle's Food with Integrity mantra may at first seem like a disconnect, closer examination shows the organization's support of IRC is a perfect complement to its mission to cultivate a better world. The partnership combines a philanthropic element with supply chain innovation and employee recruitment, culminating in a unique approach to helping refugees rebuild in the United States.
*UPS is a Cone client