• Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya has a tradition of employing refugees (Anadolu)
Hamdi Ulukaya wants to “improve the lives and livelihoods of the 65 million people who have been forcibly displaced around the globe”.
By
Bianca Soldani

1 Nov 2016 - 6:17 PM  UPDATED 1 Nov 2016 - 6:17 PM

The Chobani yogurt factories in the United States employee over 300 refugees – a fact that’s made their founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, the recipient of vitriolic abuse on social media.

Mr Ulukaya is a Turkish migrant, and first started hiring refugees after his New York based business began to burgeon in the late 2000's. He approached a local refugee resettlement centre in search of staff and has been passionate about employing displaced people at both his New York and Idaho factories ever since.

It was only earlier this year that any notable attention was drawn to Mr Ulukaya's practice after he delivered a speech to the World Economic Forum, urging businesses to help refugees "earn a living and better care for their families".

He has also set up his own foundation designed to “improve the lives and livelihoods of the 65 million people who have been forcibly displaced around the globe” and signed The Giving Pledge to dedicate the majority of his wealth “to help refugees and help bring an end to this humanitarian crisis”.

Many of the people Mr Ulukaya employs are from his native Turkey, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq among other places. but it's drawn deep criticism from some on social media who believe he is hiring refugees in favour of American-born citizens.

Concerns have also been expressed over the fact that some of Chobani's employees are Muslim, and calls have been made to boycott the brand.

A host of people have also thrown their support behind Mr Ulukaya and pledged to purchase more of his yogurt to offset any boycott.

While the plight of refugees is a matter close to Mr Ulukaya's heart, he has also recently given his 2,000 employees lucrative shares in his business and introduced a paid parental leave scheme as the US state does not provide any tax payer funded leave.