Award for company that makes special effort to integrate refugees

Summary

Flanders minister-president paid a visit this week to Gomad, where refugees find work, learn Dutch and a become part of the local community

Breaking down barriers

Minister-president Geert Bourgeois paid a visit this week to Gomad, the vegetable processing company that won the inaugural Inclusive Enterprise Award for its work in integrating refugees into its workforce and into Flemish society.

Gomad was established in 2017 in Wijnegem, Antwerp province, and processes fresh vegetables for restaurants and major supermarket chains such as BioPlanet and Metro. It’s notable for the fact that its workforce includes a high number of refugees.

“It is fantastic to see how Gomad is actively contributing to the integration of newcomers by allowing them to learn Dutch on the workfloor,” said Bourgeois (pictured, left). “Offering them administrative support reduces the chance that they will face poverty later on. I hope that Gomad will inspire other companies in terms of inclusive business and entrepreneurship.”

A promising future

After watching a presentation of the business, Bourgeois heard from employees who talked about their experiences of learning Dutch on the workfloor. 

Gomad works with VDAB, Flanders’ employment agency, which also focuses on eliminating language barriers through a combination of linguistic and technical skills. Two years after entry into the job market, 45% of people with a migration background are still in work; in Germany the figure is 27%, in Sweden 19% and in Denmark 32%.

“We invited Geert Bourgeois so we could highlight the combination of societal engagement and entrepreneurial spirit within a realistic economic context,” said Christophe De Mey, the founder of Gomad. “We are proud that as a new business we are breaking even after 18 months and in the medium term will be profitable. Without losing the focus on our employees, we want to create a promising future for people facing challenges in finding employment.”

The Inclusive Enterprise Award was established to help Flanders achieve its goal of 76% employment by 2020. The biannual prize recognises companies that have made a concrete contribution to the employment of people with potential from a diverse range of backgrounds and thus also contribute to the realisation of the UN’s sustainable development goals.