An opportunity to be even more inclusive
Vast numbers of people are being displaced across the world – mainly due to conflict and persecution – and resettling in new host countries. This means societies everywhere are becoming increasingly diverse.
As a business, we have long recognised the need for our people to reflect the communities we serve, so this shift gives us an opportunity to be even more inclusive: by helping refugees start their own businesses or by offering them employment.
Italy is one country where recruiting talented refugees is a key part of our growth strategy. There are currently 23,000 refugees seeking asylum in Italy, so they are integral to the next generation: of both workers and consumers.
We recently launched a new initiative which broadens our diversity and inclusion efforts much further than they have reached until now. Supported by Ben & Jerry’s, it’s called Home Safe Home.
Our most recent recruit is Anas Anjrini – from Aleppo in Syria – who has joined our HR team in Rome. He only started a few weeks ago and, because of his background and experiences, he’s already proving to be an invaluable member of the team. Here’s his story…
A serial entrepreneur with two hats
One day in September 2012, I got a phone call from my Dad telling me not to come home. The house had been destroyed by bombing. In an instant, we had lost everything.
Without a place to call home, we carried the few possessions we had, from one place to another. To survive, I had to earn a living. I took any job going, from caretaker to construction worker. I was even processing tomatoes for a while.
In 2014, with some family support, I started my first entrepreneurial venture. I got a market stall and a few pieces of clothing to sell. Between customers – and while the bombs continued to fall around us – I studied for a degree in Business Administration from Aleppo University.
I have always believed that my own success goes hand-in-hand with the success of people around me, so I started volunteering to support others in my city. I became an active member in several programmes across different fields, from education to social cohesion to citizenship.
By 2017, despite Aleppo still being an extremely dangerous place to live, I had launched two start-ups – in recycling and cleaning services – and over 15 social initiatives that brought together NGOs, charities, local communities and students, including women’s empowerment and NGO co-ordination.
At the start of this year, I left Syria and came to Italy to join my brother. We hadn’t seen him for many years because of the war, and we desperately wanted to reunite as a family.
Away from the horrors of conflict and the constant worry about our safety, I decided to learn new skills and gain different knowledge. I started taking lots of online courses in the Italian language, digital transformation and entrepreneurship. I’m still doing that now.
I heard about the opportunity with Unilever and I was so excited when I was accepted. I have only been here a few weeks so far, but I love it. I work in the HR team on social inclusion initiatives. This is a real passion of mine, so to be doing it as a career is great.
My main concern right now is to help my family forget all the pain and bad times. I have the chance to become a productive citizen – to give back to Italy – and to help vulnerable people around the world. I’m 29, so it’s the perfect time to start this new chapter.
I don’t like the term ‘refugee’ and I don’t want to be seen as a victim. Years ago, I started taking an active stand against challenges. And now, I see myself as a serial entrepreneur who wears two hats: social and business. So, I am working for the right company to bring my personal purpose to life.
Maybe it was my destiny. After all, the meaning of the name ‘Anas’ is kindness and courtesy.