Inspired by the empathy and activism of our own employees, supporting refugees has become both a regional and global priority.
A three-part program, focused largely in Europe, was established to provide philanthropic grants, clothing and employee volunteer hours for refugees while connecting with organizations that are providing critical services and assistance to refugees in our communities. As part of this effort, our company took the opportunity to recognize the United Nations’ World Refugee Day this week.
This work has aligned with the Levi Strauss Foundation’s focus on supporting vulnerable communities through its Rapid Response Fund, which supports organizations that protect the civil liberties of highly vulnerable communities across the United States and abroad – including immigrants, refugees, the transgender community and religious minorities. Over the past several years, the Foundation and the company together have contributed over $1 million in grants to non-profit partners supporting refugees in Europe and in the United States.
“Globally, the number of people fleeing violence is the highest recorded since World War II. Refugees are among the most marginalized people in the world, and I’m proud that we’re using not only our dollars, but our voice, to have such an impact,” said Daniel Lee, executive director of the Levi Strauss Foundation (LSF) who joined our employees and community partners in Brussels for World Refugee Day.
LSF has been supporting microStart, a Belgian-based microfinancing non-profit organization and longstanding community partner of the company, for two years to support the creation of refugee-owned businesses across the country. The funding has allowed the organization to bring on new Arabic-speaking community officers to do targeted outreach in communities with large refugee populations. With the LSF’s support, microStart has helped create more than 70 refugee-owned businesses in Belgium.
LS&Co. leaders and employees were able to visit three small businesses in the Matonge area of Brussels that are owned by entrepreneurs supported by microStart. It included a stop at a shop selling clothing, jewelry and gifts imported from countries in Africa owned by Antonio Wilson, who was born in Angola and arrived in Belgium when he was just 10 years old.
“The Levi Strauss Foundation have done an amazing job balancing long-term support of non-profit organizations, while being responsive to our rapidly changing world,” said Seth Ellison, EVP and President of Europe.
“When you are a refugee, you are starting over in every aspect of your life. We are working to increase understanding and support people in becoming included in Belgian society,” Emmanuel Legras, CEO of microStart, added.
Levi Strauss & Co. and the Levi Strauss Foundation are proud to stand with refugees and continue their support of those who are in most need around the world.