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Chobani's founder: Refugee relief needs entrepreneurs

The refugee crisis has reached a tipping point and is set to be a top focus at 2016's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, running Jan. 20-23. The WEF Global Risk Report this year named "large scale involuntary migration" as the No. 1 likely risk of 2016. Last year, the number of refugees and internally displaced people reached its highest level since World War II, according to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees. Over 60 million people were displaced around the world due to conflict and economic stability.

"Events such as Europe's refugee crisis and terrorist attacks have raised global political instability to its highest level since the Cold War," John Drzik, president, Global Risk and Specialties at Marsh, said in a statement.

That has caught the attention of many, including Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Chobani. Ulukaya emigrated from Turkey to the U.S. in the 2000s and wound up starting the now-famous yogurt company in upstate New York. Five years after it launched, it reached a billion dollars in revenue and quickly turned into the most popular brand of Greek yogurt in the U.S.

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Ulukaya has now directed his focus to Tent Foundation, which he created to help refugees. Last year he pledged half of his wealth over his lifetime to the cause. Over the past few years he has also hired hundreds of refugees to work in his facility.

Ulukaya announced on Tuesday at the Davos WEF summit that Tent Foundation will partner with companies such as Airbnb, LinkedIn, MasterCard and UPS along with the IKEA Foundation to address the global refugee crisis. Ulukaya started the Tent Foundation to encourage the private sector to go beyond what government and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) are already doing, and to find entrepreneurial solutions to aid refugees around the world. Ulukaya also pledged $1 million in grants for groups and individuals aiding refugees in Europe, the Middle East and beyond.

"If we're going to give hope and opportunity to the more than 60 million refugees around the world, it must come from more than just governments and NGOs," Ulukaya said. "Businesses and innovators have a critical role to play, and I'm so proud that some of the largest organizations in the world have joined us on our mission to rethink how we're addressing this crisis."

The Tent Foundation grants will award groups and individuals who provide immediate relief operations for refugees, who create innovations in relief work, who improve livelihood of the displaced and their communities, and whose research could shape policies regarding forced displacement.

Ulukaya's foundation plans to move funding quickly with rapid-fire grants because other aid channels can often take years. It aims to go beyond governmental aid and to encourage entrepreneurial spirit to help end the refugee crisis.

"This is more than just aid," Ulukaya said. "This is a commitment to invest in building our global capacity for meaningful, humanitarian change."

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