EY - Finalist for the UPS International Disaster Relief and Resilience Award

Finalist: Award supported by the Department for International Development

Could those coming from places like Syria offer business unique perspectives that can unlock solutions to client problems? EY certainly thinks so.  

EY wanted to understand the underlying issues around the refugee crisis

  • It developed two white papers which provided practical recommendations for managing the crisis
  • Aims to develop longer-term, sustainable solutions

EY is the advisory business helping refugees integrate into German culture

After a 2,300-mile journey to Berlin, Syrian accounting graduate, Mohammad Basel Al Younes, was met by a German news crew. They asked him what he hoped for his new life in Germany, and he said: “In 2016, I want to work for EY.”

Millions of refugees have fled to Europe over the past years and no single actor can tackle the crisis alone. However, businesses are particularly well placed to offer practical support to refugees, not only with short term aid, but with employment and programmes, such as language training, skills development, mentoring, internships and work placements, to help integrate refugees into the workforce for the long-term.

“Refugees represent an important talent pool and in return for businesses’ support, companies can benefit from cost-effective recruitment, stronger community links and personal development opportunities for employees,” says Julie McQueen, a senior strategic analyst at EY.

EY believes that diversity is a key driver of innovation, which in turn leads to better outcomes for society. “Only the highest-performing teams, which maximise the power of different opinions, perspectives and cultural references, will offer the best solutions to client problems and help us to succeed in the global marketplace,” adds McQueen. And refugees coming into the company certainly have a wholly different perspective.

Developing long-term sustainable solutions

In 2015, EY wanted to understand the underlying issues around the refugee crisis. It developed two white papers which provided practical recommendations for managing the crisis and developing longer-term, sustainable solutions. This included a ‘call to action’ for all sectors, including the business community, to work together to help alleviate the crisis.

With an unprecedented inflow of refugees into Germany, EY formed a task force in conjunction with the German Diversity Charter, to help refugees integrate with the workforce and rebuild their lives.

“We observed that, on one hand, there were refugees arriving in the country and NGOs that needed help in integrating them into the workforce and, on the other hand, a number of companies that wanted to provide assistance,” says McQueen. “But there was no means to bring them together.” 

EY’s Germany team brought together some of the country's largest companies – along with politicians, representatives of civil society and the refugee community – in a round table, helping specifically with communication to refugees, education and employment opportunities.

A volunteer and pro bono programme at the German firm, known as EY Cares, received funding for a language-learning app, developed by an employee of EY Germany and has supported Kiron, a social start up providing higher education to refugees.

It also launched a pilot internship program for ten refugees across the company in Germany, with Younes as one of the first interns. Within a week of his trip to Berlin, he had been found through social media and offered the internship. “[The programme] really gave me a lot of support, helped me to write my CV, to prepare my certificates, to refresh my information, to offer me German classes and worked hard to find a place for me at EY,” he says. “I learned from this team what is the meaning of goals and teamwork.”

A commitment to corporate responsibilty

Not only is the EY task force helping solve one of Europe’s biggest challenges, but also simultaneously communicating EY’s commitment to corporate responsibility.

The Germany Diversity Charter project has provided much needed aid to the refugees in Germany, and it is continuing to provide greater access to the education, skills and job opportunities.

It has not only supported hundreds of refugees integrate into the German culture, but a number of refugees have also taken on employment opportunities at the participating companies which have provided internships.

The white papers have helped demonstrate EY’s thought leadership on tackling a major global humanitarian issue, enhancing corporate reputation, and collective learning has helped create business development and commercial opportunities.

And, of course, bringing in ten refugees has enhanced its diversity that it champions.