How Helping Refugees Helps Brands: Europe

By Tülin Erdem, Vishal Singh, Çağdaş Şirin, and Poppy Zhang

Supporting refugees is a politicized issue. Brands are sometimes concerned about undertaking activities that support refugees and how they communicate them externally, for fear of alienating sections of their consumer base. This research shows that brands can do well by doing good. Overall, no matter how brands choose to support refugees, Europeans are with them and it should encourage companies to expand and proactively communicate their refugee efforts.

Research was authored by faculty and scholars at the NYU Stern School of Business.

This report, authored by faculty and scholars at the NYU Stern School of Business, demonstrates that European consumers, particularly millennials, are more likely to purchase from companies that hire refugees, invest in refugee enterprises, and deliver services to refugees. The report, titled “How Helping Refugees Helps Brands”, is based on an online survey approximately 12,200 consumers across France, Germany and Italy to analyze consumer perceptions of business leadership on refugees. It reveals that business support for refugees almost always has a net positive effect on European consumers’ purchase intentions.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Despite increasing polarization in Europe around the refugee crisis, consumers in Italy, France, and Germany are more likely to buy from brands that support refugees.
  • While consumers in Europe are bitterly divided on the question of whether brands should advocate for more refugees to be admitted into Europe, they are overwhelmingly supportive of brands that seek to help refugees in other ways: 44 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand that extends services to refugees, while only 14 percent are less likely to do so.
  • Younger consumers aged 18 to 35 in all three countries are more favorable towards companies that help refugees: 77 percent are more likely to purchase from a brand that supports refugees in some way. The research suggests that the younger the consumers, the more positive their stance.
  • Among the three countries surveyed, Italian consumers are the most positive towards brands that help refugees. Support is higher in the south of the country, where more refugees tend to arrive.
  • Whilst the research found that political ideology is a strong indicator of whether a consumer will be supportive of a brand that helps refugees, consumers on the right are surprisingly supportive of certain activities that support refugees: 39 percent of consumers who consider themselves to be on the right or slightly right of the political spectrum are more likely to purchase from brands that hire refugees abroad, and only 15 percent would be less likely to do so.

Our findings demonstrate that overall, when brands and companies take steps to support refugees, European consumers are more likely to purchase from them. Download our report to learn more.