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US Firms Recognized for Refugee Employment, Marine Pollution Curbs


“With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside our own borders, we are proud of the examples that these companies are setting, and their commitment to export the highest standards, for protecting the workers, preserving the environment, advancing innovation, and defending intellectual property," says Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, seen in this 2016 file photo.

Two U.S. companies that employ women and refugees in Saudi Arabia and Germany, a firm that trained hundreds of software developers in Nigeria and Kenya, two manufacturers that launched recycling programs in Chile and the Philippines, and a mining company that promotes business-operations transparency in Peru are recipients of the State Department’s 2016 annual Awards for Corporate Excellence.

This program dates back to 1999 and highlights U.S. businesses that advance sustainable development, democratic values and ethical practices overseas.

“With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside our own borders, we are proud of the examples that these companies are setting, and their commitment to export the highest standards, for protecting the workers, preserving the environment, advancing innovation, and defending intellectual property," said Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken at Thursday's awards ceremony at the State Department in Washington, D.C.

Good works

Among this year's winners is Interface, an Atlanta-based manufacturer of modular carpet tiles and flooring that works to reduce marine pollution in coastal areas of the Philippines.

The Net-Works project launched by Interface “empowers people in coastal communities in the developing world to collect and sell discarded nylon fishing nets, thereby removing these nets from the ocean where they wreak havoc with marine life,” the firm’s Chief Sustainability Officer Erin Meezan told VOA. “The nets are then sold into a global supply chain and recycled into yarn to make carpet tile.”

Since 2012, Net-works has collected more than 100 tons of waste nets for recycling, which is enough to circle the world twice.

Making impact

In Africa, Andela, a company that trained software engineers, has amassed upwards of 250 developers across its Lagos, Nigeria, and Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters and placed more than 100 developers with company partners in 2016.

Andela was awarded for its enterprise in the developing world.

McDonald’s Deutschland was recognized for supporting refugees’ integration into Germany’s society and workforce. Since 2015, McDonald’s Deutschland has hired more than 900 refugees to fill positions in its 1,500 franchises in Germany, and it has partnered with the German government to provide 20,000 language courses for refugees.

The award program is headed by the State Department's Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.

“Many refugees I have met over the course of my work have hard skills and can have a significant positive impact once they are economically integrated in their host economies,” said the Bureau’s Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Ziad Haider.

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