What are some practical examples and lessons from business contributions to peace?

This written discussion is part a new month-long Challenge with Indiana University around the question: “What role can business play in pursuit of peace?”  The Challenge consists an online programme of written articles and online discussions, available on the Challenge homepage.

 

Despite the fact that broad macroeconomic connections between business and peace have long been acknowledged more needs to be done.  This Challenge aims to deepen understanding around the role that business can play in peacekeeping, peace making, and peace building.

This discussion focuses on practical examples and lessons from business contributions to peace.  A one-hour live panel will take place Wednesday 19 October from 10am ET / 3pm UK.

The discussion will focus on three questions:

 

  1. Can you share practical examples of companies that have explicitly or implicitly impacted on peace?  What lessons might we draw from their work?
  2. Thinking about some of the current trends, what are some of the other ways in which businesses can most effectively contribute to peace?
  3. How can different stakeholders, from business, government and civil society best work together in pursuit of peace?

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Thinking on the trends that are right now, I think business can contribute to peace in a lot of different ways. I think using marketing and social media to promote peace to people and share different positive and peaceful advertising campaigns will be a really good idea. Then, companies should start giving incentives and rewards to intercultural practices and activities, BMW is doing this right now. Lastly, I would say that increasing the diversity in the company will be a good idea to start promoting peace.  

TOMS Shoes has been able to make a huge stride in todays modern corporate era. Showing that a company can almost solely exist to help people around the world. Everyone needs shoes and TOMS has been a leader in social responsibility around the globe. Of course, they may not be the most profitable company and may not be the best company to invest in, but they are making a difference. However, this impact they are creating should allow them to receive certain subsidiaries so they can be more competitive in the eyes of investors. More and more companies are popping up that offer the promotion of "Buy a product, give a product." Ten years ago, this model would have never been successful, but this strong push towards helping everyone in the world and equality has allowed this business model to succeed in its earliest stages. There is a lot of work to be done to create a successful business model that can compete with for-profit organization, but I believe that people are starting to see the impact companies can make around the globe.

I agree with Paula that marketing can be an effective measure to promote peace. Beverage industry giant Coca Cola operates in over 200 countries and has done a great job of portraying this message through its advertisements. One recent example being its "Share a Coke" campaign, where the company encourages sharing Coke products and peace with other parties. Although this campaign is a more abstract signal of peace, Coca Cola has made it clear that they believe in peace on a global level. They have had many TV advertisements and billboards that show different cultures coming together around its product. Specifically, there are billboards displayed with the hands of people of different races holding a Coke bottle cap together. Yes, this could be seen as a ploy to exploit consumer behavior since consumers value companies that benefit the community. But my understanding is that whether we like it or not, advertisements like these do subliminally affect that way we think, and in this case, make us more exposed to the ideology of global peace.

Paula Gutierrez Perez said:

Thinking on the trends that are right now, I think business can contribute to peace in a lot of different ways. I think using marketing and social media to promote peace to people and share different positive and peaceful advertising campaigns will be a really good idea. Then, companies should start giving incentives and rewards to intercultural practices and activities, BMW is doing this right now. Lastly, I would say that increasing the diversity in the company will be a good idea to start promoting peace.  

When thinking of a ways in which businesses, government, and civil society can come together in pursuit of peace, I like to reference my favorite TV show, Parks and Recreation. In this show fictional character Leslie Knope is a hardworking, driven, and passionate government employee in the Parks Department of Pawnee, Indiana and she does whatever it takes to make the city a better place. Whenever she or the department have a new mission or government project to pursue, they always host town hall meetings to hear out the recommendations, concerns, and complaints of the residents, or stakeholders, of Pawnee. Similarly, I believe businesses, the government, and society should all come together to come up with peace initiatives. When a project for peace is made, each party should discuss pros, cons, concerns, impacts, etc to best benefit the community. When conclusions can't made easily determined on decisions, then there should be a vote just how democracy is supposed to run. I understand that this makes it sound easier than it looks, but I think regular meetings with representative parties for all stakeholders discussing peace initiatives is the ideal way to pursue peace.

The first question reminds me of the contribution made by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan that they have pledged to donate 99% of their Facebook shares to the cause of human advancement and are planing to donate billions to fight diseases. What they have done and what they are going to do is profound and a wonderful example to show how a great entrepreneur and a great company can do to build peace, to create stable environment and better society beyond only focusing on profits. 

Tech companies such as Microsoft and Google have had relatively contributed to peace, both explicitly and implicitly. Microsoft, for example, openly says how everything starts with building a good community within their company. Fostering healthy relationships between individuals and embracing diversity and inclusivity within the firm. This culture within the firm builds up as a habit within all people, and in turn unconsciously practice ethical conducts inside and outside the firm. They are very involve in supporting and volunteering within their community.

We are also aware that nowadays, the number of people having access to internet and technology, in general, is growing. People may not realize that they hold confidential data across industries and that they are also responsible for protecting its integrity and privacy. These tech-giants have managed to promote trust by building and enhancing security within their technologies and protecting data and information from people with bad intentions. They also constantly innovate products that they believe can make the world a better place to live in.

In connection to Paula’s comment above, I agree that marketing and social media can have a large impact in promoting peace. Like what I have mentioned previously, there is a growing number of people having access to internet, and so is an increasing awareness to what is happening globally. Through communication in technology, it helps us builds awareness and understand each other’s perspective better. In turn, a larger number of people can also gain consciousness on how to help others since a greater number of minds can collaborate on making solutions to building and fostering peace.  

I have also been struck by the role of the entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs (not necessarily big business, but business nonetheless can play in breaking down barriers that traditionally hinder interaction between countries or societies that have warred against each other and/or are traditionally antagonistic. I have found that the startup community around the world, which comes from a younger demographic and is connected very heavily via social networks in this globalized world, generally does not care what religion, color, country, culture, gender, etc. a person is. 

This community is more willing to collaborate and work with partners from so-called antagonistic countries (Greece, Turkey, Armenia), (Israel and the Arab world), than practically any other segment of society. I think that these are efforts can push for peace from the bottom up. 

This is the first generation that has grown up with social media and can access others from so-called enemy countries very easily without government interference. I would like to see in a number of years what effect this generation has.

There are many ways for businesses and individuals to promote peace, such as supporting social entrepreneurs, rewarding the understanding on diversity and marketing cross borders. I think more entrepreneurs need opportunities today to start business or providing jobs at less developed places. As a start up, it can be hard especially when one is trying to bring peace at the cost of revenues. So there should be more support and incentives from government or nonprofit organizations to encourage people to do good for a better world. On the other hand, grown businesses like Starbucks have done their part contributing to peace. Starbucks ethically sources its coffee, in turn provides job opportunities in less developed countries. So people no longer suffer from poverty and hunger. This encourages trade between countries, somehow contributes to the communication/understanding among countries. This movement certainly is an example of peace building.

  The way Lighting the Path Enterprises is contributing to peace is by empowering marginalized populations.  My nonprofit has been working in Burkina Faso, West Africa for six years.  We research and develop empowerment projects to aid people in improving their own life.  We assist with education and training in skills to allow the individual to earn an income which elevates the health and education of the entire family. We provide supplies, tools and equipment to begin a small enterprise and teach good business practices.  We have been very successful in these efforts and received the 2016 Hero award from Billion Acts of Peace. These efforts have led to good relations between very different groups of people and have also lessened the frustration and hopelessness of the marginalized populations leading to greater contentment and peace.  When populations are oppressed, marginalized and struggling they are more likely to react with force in an attempt to gain what they need.  When they have no options for change and no hope, people feel they have no power or choices and they will more likely to react in negative or even violent ways towards others.  www.lightingthepath.org

Echoing a lot of what people have already said, business does have the ability to make an impact in a lot of big ways. Recently, Budweiser has spent a week canning water instead of beer to help the victims of the hurricane. This is a small way that businesses can help in crisis situations and help benefit the community. If all businesses did this, imagine the impact they could have on the world.

Budweiser gave up a week of their time. There are so many corporations that can do this and can actually make a difference in benefiting poverty and peace throughout the world.

Warren Buffet has done essentially the same thing, he plans on leaving little money to his children and to donate most of his money. He lives in the same house and has had the same car for over a decade. He doesn't believe in flourishing in his money and he has been the prime example of a humble man for the younger generation, especially those on Wall Street. If more people could live by his standards, well within their means, then the world be a better place. Not being consumed in greed would be a monumental stride for society as a whole.

Xiyu Zhang said:

The first question reminds me of the contribution made by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan that they have pledged to donate 99% of their Facebook shares to the cause of human advancement and are planing to donate billions to fight diseases. What they have done and what they are going to do is profound and a wonderful example to show how a great entrepreneur and a great company can do to build peace, to create stable environment and better society beyond only focusing on profits. 

I agree that companies like TOMS Shoes are important in showing the way that companies can make a positive impact on the world. However, it is has been recently noticed that what TOMS is doing may be actually hurting the places it donates to just as much as it helping them. This article explains those reasons: http://www.whydev.org/some-bad-news-about-toms-shoes/. This makes me wonder if certain businesses are manipulating the public into believing that the one thing that differentiates them from competitors is their "good deeds". Like TOMS, these companies could just be using their good deeds to gain more business, even though what they are doing is not actually the best course of action possible. I do think though, that companies like TOMS who are willing to do anything at all to help the world prove to consumers and the rest of the population that businesses can and do try to give back and help. Even if there is more that could be done, or alternative options for helping their cause, at least these companies are doing something and are making a difference in the way that the world views large corporations.

John William Sances Machalek said:

TOMS Shoes has been able to make a huge stride in todays modern corporate era. Showing that a company can almost solely exist to help people around the world. Everyone needs shoes and TOMS has been a leader in social responsibility around the globe. Of course, they may not be the most profitable company and may not be the best company to invest in, but they are making a difference. However, this impact they are creating should allow them to receive certain subsidiaries so they can be more competitive in the eyes of investors. More and more companies are popping up that offer the promotion of "Buy a product, give a product." Ten years ago, this model would have never been successful, but this strong push towards helping everyone in the world and equality has allowed this business model to succeed in its earliest stages. There is a lot of work to be done to create a successful business model that can compete with for-profit organization, but I believe that people are starting to see the impact companies can make around the globe.

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