VICE has debuted a new documentary called “Moving Humanity Forward,” a film focused on Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya’s “anti-CEO” playbook, his people-first business philosophy and refugee advocacy work and the food maker’s efforts to rebuild an upstate New York community.
Directed by Nirit Peled, “Moving Humanity Forward” debuted on VICE and VICETV.com on Feb. 15. The documentary follows the lives of refugees who live in the Utica, New York region and are employed by Chobani, showcasing the positive impact refugee integration in society has on business and communities. The film’s heart can be summarized by Ulukaya’s belief that “the minute you get a job, that’s the minute you stop being a refugee.”
“Once you start doing work on humanity there is this magnet – it just takes you,” said Ulukaya in the film. “We must put social issues: our community, our people, in the center. And let profit come after. And it will come.”
“This documentary exemplifies the rippling effect that a purpose-led brand like Chobani can have not only on its employees and local communities but on a global scale,” said Jesse Angelo, president of global news and entertainment for VICE Media Group. “At VICE, it’s always rewarding when we can partner with a brand that shares our core values, and the story of Hamdi and his team is one we are immensely proud to tell.”
Since Chobani was founded over a decade ago, the food maker has always been a different kind of company. After moving to New York as a Kurdish immigrant from Turkey, Ulukaya found that in America, anything is possible. Not only did he make nutritious, natural and accessible Greek yogurt right here in the U.S., Ulukaya reignited communities, stood up for marginalized people and demonstrated a new role for business in society.
Chobani employees come from every conceivable background. At the company’s plant in upstate New York, for instance, employees include people from Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Nepal, resettled as refugees often following violent and difficult experiences in their home countries. Seeing firsthand how hard working refugees and immigrants are in its own plants, Ulukaya was compelled to dedicate his personal wealth and time to the global refugee crisis. In 2016, Ulukaya started the Tent Partnership for Refugees to mobilize the global business community to include refugees, and as of 2021, more than 140 major companies have shown their commitment to the cause.
Robust employee benefits packages are also central to Chobani’s core, including a commitment to pay a starting wage of at least $15 at the company’s manufacturing plants, paid parental leave, a commitment to pay equity and Chobani Rewards – an initiative that allows every full-time employee to share in the growth of Chobani over time.
At the same time, Chobani has grown to become more than a yogurt maker, now selling oatmilks, ready-to-drink coffees, probiotic drinks and dairy- and plant-based creamers. Chobani is now a modern food company, continuing with its founding mission of bringing better food to more people.