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Chobani CEO Hires 600 Refugees, Urges Private Sector to Act

hamdi ulukaya chobani ceo hires refugees

The story below originally appeared on CNN Money. Scroll to the bottom to watch the video.

Mustafa Abdul Karim is putting labels on yogurt containers. Three years ago, he was running for his life. His village in Sudan was burning. Today, he’s one of 600 refugees working for Chobani CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, in upstate New York.

Meeting Needs of Refugees

Ulukaya is the founder and CEO of Chobani, a greek yogurt company that is on track to hit $1 billion in annual sales. But Ulukaya wasn’t always so successful. Ulukaya fled Turkey in 1994, resettling in the United States.

I left Turkey because I was Kurdish, and I was very serious about Kurdish rights. A lot of Kurds in Turkey flee the country [because] their villages are bombed.”

Ulukaya understands the value of a job to recently resettled refugees. A year after Ulukaya founded Chobani in 1997, he began hiring refugees to work at his upstate New York plant. When asked why he started hiring refugees, Ulukaya said,

My background is the reason I knew about the refugees, and the reason I knew how important it is to be accepted in your [new] community. It is only possible if you get a job.”

A ‘Broken System’

eid al-adha harsham refugee camp

The UN resettles less than 1% of those in need.

Ulukaya says that the system for processing and resettling refugees is in dire need of change. Said Ulukaya,

I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know how bad it was. I should have known, since I was hiring refugees for 4-5 years.”

Ulukaya blames governments and the UN, calling thier refugee resettlement programs “broken systems.”

Let’s face it, the way we are dealing with the refugee crisis today is the same way we did it in the 40’s and 50’s, but the conditions on the ground are different.”

Calling on Corporate America

Ulukaya is calling on Corporate America to step up. He says that business leaders must contribute because they can be more effective than the US government, or the United Nations.

Although massive corporation like Google and Goldman Sachs have pledged support to the UNHCR, Ulukaya says that business leaders can do more than just write checks.

Ulukaya has pledged half of his net worth, and the six hundred refugees that he’s hired is just a start.

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