This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.
Author: Henrietta H. Fore, Director Emeritus, Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP)
- The war in Ukraine has displaced nearly two-thirds of the country’s children.
- International cooperation is essential to protect children and their families.
- The private sector can act directly to help Ukraine and its people.
When the war in Ukraine broke out, the idea of a war in Europe was shocking and demanded public attention and support. More than 100 days later, the crisis continues, but popular attention is waning and children will have to deal with its consequences for decades. Almost two-thirds Ukrainian children are now displaced since the start of the Russian invasion, some are internally displaced, some have crossed borders as refugees and many are young and alone.
Collectively, whether in Ukraine, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan or any of the many crisis centers around the world, this instability robs children of their future. Trauma and fear can have lasting effects on children’s physical and mental health.
Shared global responsibility
To support future generations, businesses, world leaders and the international community have a shared responsibility in responding to global instability – not just at the start of a crisis but over the long term – as it poses a serious threat to freedom and global economic security. For example, Russia and Ukraine export almost a third of the world’s wheat and barley, more than 70% of its sunflower oil and are major suppliers of maize. Russia’s war in Ukraine is preventing grain from leaving the “breadbasket of the world” and making food more expensive globally, threatening to worsen shortages, hunger and political instability in developing countries.
How does the World Economic Forum support refugees?
Since February 24, 2022, more than 6 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed the borders to neighboring countries. The war is widely recognized as Europe’s worst conflict since World War II and adds to an estimated 31 million people worldwide who have been displaced across borders as a result of persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations (UNHCR, 2021). Of this number, approximately 10 million are of working age, highlighting the centrality of employment and employability to successful integration.
The crisis in Ukraine is unique in terms of the speed and scale at which it unfolded. However, it is also unprecedented in the legal and institutional response to the crisis. This highlighted what is possible for refugee employment and employability in an enabling environment.
The Refugee Employment and Employability Initiative builds on the momentum associated with supporting refugees from Ukraine to create a foundation for system-wide global support of employers for refugees that spans across conflict contexts.
The Initiative has three objectives:
- increase employment opportunities for refugees;
- expand the range of initiatives that support their employability;
- build rapid response capacity and resilience to future refugee crises.
In its first phase, the Initiative is working with Forum partners Human Resources Managers Community understand what member organizations are doing in relation to refugee employment and employability. These findings will be used to shape the initiative and identify opportunities for future collaboration in the initiative’s second phase.
Global conflicts also have a dangerous impact on geopolitics. At the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum this year in Davos, Professor Klaus Schwab said in his introductory remarks, “Russia’s aggression against their country [Ukraine] will appear in future history books as the collapse of the post-World War II and post-Cold War order. This is why we speak of a turning point in history. In Davos, our solidarity is above all with the people who suffer from the atrocities of this war.
Cooperation between governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector and many other partners is the best way to advance, protect and restore opportunities for every child and their family. During my time at UNICEF, we argued that every person needs safety, equality, health, education and livelihoods – and I still believe this is true for everyone today .
How can the private sector help Ukraine?
This collective effort, however, requires the private sector to step in and do the right thing. And it’s not just altruism, as there is a clear case for social purpose, as companies with a strong social purpose tend to outperform those without. CEOs with a social vocation (CECP) to research demonstrates that companies with an established and articulated purpose – high-purpose companies – show 14% higher revenue growth, 8% higher operating profitability and 6% higher return on capital than companies that focused purely on profit maximization. And the gap is widening.
Companies can “do well and do good in Ukraine”…helping to evacuate local employees, donating to humanitarian organizations, enforcing sanctions, etc. ”— @CECPtweets
Companies can “do well and do good in Ukraine” and other areas that need it by using existing processes, systems and connections to bring about real change. This may include helping to evacuate local employees, donating to humanitarian organizations, enforcing sanctions, and more. (Look at this Exhaustive list from the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals (ACCP) on the business response to the crisis in Ukraine for ideas on how your business can help.)
But it also requires leaders to treat all people with respect, dignity and fairness, as we see now, when we fail to do this, we all lose a part of our collective humanity. Other recent research reveals that companies that do not work with integrity can lose more than suppliers and customers, but also valuable employees. The CECP, with the support of the Ford Foundation, finds in the Well-being of frontline workers in times of crisis point out that wages are only one critical factor among others for workers; wage stability, paid holidays, security, flexible working hours, as well as a sense of purpose and dignity are also essential.
We are at a crucial time in our world where it is important for business leaders to not only serve shareholders, but also to be community leaders and to speak up and speak out for good. A business, its owners, employees, customers, suppliers, and communities stand behind all of their workplaces, products, and services—now, too, businesses must stand up for what these stakeholders value and believe.
Today is our turn. Let’s keep our promise to use business as a global force for good.