Helping Refugees in the U.S. Turns Out To Be Good For Business

Tülin Erdem

By Tülin Erdem & Selcuk Sirin

Overall, support for refugees, which might seem like a bad political calculation, is in fact paying off for brands.

By Tülin Erdem & Selcuk Sirin

Refugees are at the center of a political debate that heated up during the 2016 elections and has only increased in intensity since the 2018 midterms and the arrival of a refugee caravan at the US-Mexico border. Despite the polarized rhetoric in these discussions, businesses have been taking a stand in support of refugees. In the past two years, more than 100 companies have publicly joined the Tent Partnership for Refugees, a non-profit with a mission to develop and implement concrete business commitments to refugees.

Are these businesses simply altruistic or can helping refugees also be good for business during an era of anti-refugee sentiment?

To understand whether helping refugees helps or hurts brands, researchers from the NYU Stern School of Business surveyed a representative sample of consumers in the U.S. about their sentiments in regard to 10 brands across 10 product categories (alcohol, automobiles, cosmetics, apparel retail stores, cosmetics, grocery stores, home furnishings, hotels, soft drinks, soap-shampoo, and sports apparel), as well as consumer sentiments about business commitment to refugees.

The results from 7,139 consumers are somewhat surprising: almost half of them (48%) noted that they are more likely to purchase a brand if they know the brand is committed to supporting refugees in one or more ways. The level of support is even higher among millennial consumers: 60% of those surveyed under age 35 are more likely to purchase pro-refugee brands.

Read the full MarketWatch article.
Tülin Erdem is a Professor of Marketing and Chair of the Marketing Department at NYU Stern School of Business.

Selcuk Sirin is a Professor of Applied Psychology at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.