How the Private Sector is Aiding the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis

By: Abby Douglas

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to have a devastating impact on the people of Ukraine who are fearing for their lives, their safety and their future. With over 3.1 million people who already fled their country, governments around the world are fearing that this war could lead to one of the largest refugee crises in the world. While the geopolitical tensions and imposed economic sanctions on Russia continue to grow by the day, the private sector has stepped up to protect and support those forced to leave their homeland in various ways.

Take a look at these companies making a difference:

With a high burden of health issues and impeding access, proper access to healthcare is imperative for refugees. Private provider LuxMed is providing free medical assistance to people from Ukraine and is stationing its doctors and paramedics near the border. In addition, Medicover has launched a Ukrainian-language helpline to address the language barrier within the healthcare industry. Finally, Gdansk-based women’s health clinic Nivique is offering free gynecological services to female refugees.

Hotels and hostels across the border have been working to provide free accommodation services.Airbnb has offered free, temporary housing for up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine. The Polish hotel chain Arche Hotels has prepared to accommodate 5,000 refugees, while its establishment in Lublin collected bedding, clothing, Polish language books and toys for the children fleeing Ukraine. Nordic Choice, one of Scandinavia’s biggest hostel groups, has also provided free accommodation.

Players in the food industry have launched programs to help their employees and provide essential goods to those seeking refuge. Poland’s largest food retailer Biedronka is giving all of its Ukrainian employees payment of 1,000 zlotych ($243) as a “gesture of solidarity.” The company has also announced that it is simplifying a procedure to hire family members of current Biedornka employees. The company also pledged to allocate $1.2 million to deliver basic food, hygiene and cleaning products to refugees.

Transportation has proven to be a necessary industry in helping refugees flee Ukraine. Panek, a car-sharing service, offered 1,000 of its 2,500 cars to volunteers to transport people in need at the Polish-Ukrainian border, an appeal that was so successful that all vehicles were booked after a few hours. To help transport refugees into Poland, the state railway operator PKP launched additional connections and announced that citizens of Ukraine can travel for free over the next month. Similarly, Deutsche Bahn is offering Ukrainian passport or ID-card holders free travel on its long-distance trains from Poland to Germany.

The cosmetic industry has also been a prominent force in responding to the immediate challenges posed for refugees. Inglot, a large cosmetics company headquartered in the border city of Przemyśl, has offered work and accommodation to those fleeing their homeland. The Estée Lauder Companies has taken significant steps to support the safety of their employees in Ukraine, including the continuance of all compensation, maintenance of regular communication, and relocation assistance. The company’s charitable foundation, ELCCF, has also committed $1 million in support of relief efforts in Ukraine and has donated ELC products to those displaced and in need.

On top of providing aid to refugees, many corporations have responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by halting their business operations within Russia. The Estée Lauder Companies suspended all business investments, initiatives, and commercial activity in Russia. Companies including GM, Nike, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s, among others, have similarly suspended business in Russia by closing their stores and suspending Russian-based production. JP Morgan removed Russian securities from its fixed income indexes, BlackRock suspended the purchase of Russian securities in its active and index funds, and Nasdaq and Intercontinental Exchange Inc’s New York Stock Exchange have halted trading in Russian Stocks. In addition to the examples mentioned above, there are significantly more companies with considerable presence in Russia that have pulled out of the country. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses immediate challenges to multiple dimensions of business, from protecting their workers, to addressing their operations, and to navigating the unstable economy. Regardless of the industry, it is evident that the private sector has a large role to play in addressing the pressing refugee crisis in Ukraine. With 4 million people estimated to flee Ukraine as the situation unfolds, companies have the opportunity to join the response and provide urgent aid and assistance to refugees.

You can read more about other companies’ responses here:

Factbox-European and U.S. companies mobilise to help Ukrainians fleeing war

How Companies Are Responding to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine