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During the big influx of refugees to Germany, several outdoor brands moved positively to provide jobs, aligning with the German entrepreneurial initiative ‘Bleibrecht durch Arbeit’ which aims to provide refugees with a permanent job with a secure right of residence. It involves 120 businesses with a combined annual turnover of more than €50 billion. Together they engage in non-partisan work for refugees and work for a change in the legal framework.
Antje von Dewitz, Managing Director of Vaude Sport, said,”We want to make our contribution to integration and counteract the social divide in Germany. Integration works best over work, that’s what our experiences show. At the same time, we urgently need workers in many areas in order to maintain our economic power and enable further growth.”
For Vaude, this meant overcoming the concerns of some of their existing workers, teaching refugees German and finding accommodation amongst a raft of positive actions. At the recent European Outdoor Summit (EOS) in Malmö, Sweden, the situation of refugees in Europe was raised. Mark Held, Secretary General of the European Outdoor Group (EOG), addressed delegates on the subject and asked them if they would support the EOG developing a position on the subject.
Held said, “Now the political climate towards refugees in Germany has changed and many (outdoor brands) have workers the state is now saying cannot remain. The brands have fought against this and Vaude were invited to take part in a panel discussion on national TV to explain why they are protesting. The result was, in some ways, sadly predictable and they were bombarded by hate mail and threats. So, after a lengthy discussion, I addressed the attendees at the EOS. When I asked those who agreed to stand up, the response was virtually unanimous.”
Statement on behalf of all members of the European Outdoor Group:
‘At present we appear to be witnessing a change in the social and political landscapes of Europe and this is causing us great concern. Extremist voices are spreading distrust and discrimination and we are all too aware of where this has led Europe in the past.
The principles of equality and non-discrimination are laid down in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (Article 1). This was further strengthened by the European Convention on Human Rights and specifically, Article 14 and Protocol 12.
The outdoor sector, as represented by the European Outdoor Group, supports these declarations and states clearly that:
- Intolerance, whether it be based on xenophobia, racism, or antisemitism, has no rational foundation and the members of the EOG will work to counter such at every opportunity.
- Discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, language, culture or any other of the many grounds that we now see, is utterly opposed by the membership of the EOG.
We absolutely reject all extremist tendencies of whatever kind and will not tolerate them within our companies. Humanity, diversity, tolerance and mutual respect are part of the DNA of outdoor companies and at present, these values are being questioned by a vociferous minority. This is something that we oppose, and we believe in a society that is open, diverse and democratic. Relying on a silent majority to uphold those values is not enough and this is why we have chosen to set out our position in this statement.’
Whilst integration represents challenges to businesses, von Dewitz has a wider vision, “Integration is not a walk. As a company, we are not only an employer but also an integration service provider. So we also take care of the language problems and authorities of our refugee employees. But it is nice to see how the company has developed a great cooperation – that gives me the strength to fight for it.”
In an email this morning, Held commented, ‘On a wider note, however, the position the EOG is steadily developing is that of a sector that is values-driven, so whether it be environmental, social, sustainability etc, the outdoor sector should know what it collectively believes in and be true to those beliefs. You’ll see a lot more of this over the coming months.’
December 14, 2018 at 10:55AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs