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 why business might contribute to peace.  A one-hour live panel will take place Wednesday 12 October from 10am ET / 3pm UK.

The discussion will focus on three questions:

  1. What motivates business to contribute to peace?  Of these motivations, which one(s) might be the most important in the future?
  2. If businesses aim to contribute to peace, what can they learn from best practice, including from other businesses and from the political and diplomatic worlds?
  3. As businesses move from a pure focus on shareholder value to “shared” value for all stakeholders, what implications does this have for why and how they can contribute to peace?

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I completely agree with Ken Li in that although promoting peace is the ethical thing to do, businesses also do so in large part to obtain profit. In the pursuit of peace, we are fortunate that society today wants peace, and in turn pressures business to promote peace.  Society's interest in ethical behavior has been increasing in importance, and I believe that this trend will continue in the future and that interest will strengthen even more. Regardless of the motivation of acting to promote peace, whether it's tax deductions or attracting customers, the end result is that one more business is promoting peace.  With each additional business that promotes peace, we are one step closer to an overall peaceful society.

Ken Li said:

Business benefits often motivate businesses to promote peace. First, companies that promote peace are often rewarded by the government with tax deductions. For example, companies that donate old supplies to Goodwill will receive charitable tax deductions on their next tax payments. Second, as consumers become more socially conscious, it is beneficial for companies promote peace and thereby attracting more customers. TOMS Shoes's business model of one donation per sale has helped the company to build a loyal customer base. Finally, employees would take pride in their companies' rightful actions, thus growing workforce loyalty and productivity. 

The role of a business is to generate wealth for anyone involved, like stakeholder theory supports. This includes the shareholders, employees, customers, and society as a whole. A business might contribute to peace in order to shape the brand of their company. From a long-term perspective, this overall image created by contributing to peace will increase profits as a whole. Furthermore, The reputation of the company would continue to build, bringing in the highest qualified applicants looking to work for the business, enhancing job creation. The cycle continues, which allows customers remain loyal and satisfied, creating more profits for the company. This idea of a cycle is very important for the business's future and it is the underlying factors of this cycle that motivates the company to contribute to peace in the first place. All in all, the most important motivation in relationship to the firm's future is probably building an image, because that is where it all begins. 

Another interesting note to think about is the competition that businesses are currently up against in the economy. Contributing to peace should and often is something that businesses do because they want to, but it is also a possibility that the pressure of competition is a motivator in itself to push companies to contribute to society. If it wasn't gaining so much popularity, there would be less companies feeling the pressure to give back and contribute to peace. This isn't so much an important long-term motivator, but it is definitely something to think about when assessing the idea of why a company might contribute to peace.

Grant, I agree with your statement that a business might contribute to peace to impact its bottom line. Through learning Total Integrity Management and its guidance for creating an ethical corporate culture, I understand how focusing on the softer side of the business positively impacts the bottom line. This could be a major motivator for a business to want to contribute to peace. Through genuinely listening, respecting, and rewarding your employees for their ethical actions, managers improve the bottom line. Managers realize a greater ROI from their happy employees, as they will leave the company at a decreased number and also increase productivity. Operating income and stock price are increased due to increased productivity. Creating a corporate culture that contributes to peace [by inspiring ethical decision-making] makes sense economically and is just the right thing to do.

Grant West said:

A business might contribute to peace because, in general, it's the right thing to do. In my opinion, the way to a more peaceful world is a more peaceful business world. So if businesses start acting on what is in the best interest for peace (and not just revenues), then we could progress toward a more peaceful business world and business world. Another reason for a business to push peace relates to the bottom line. An economic environment with a lot of fear and hate isn't very efficient. When businesses try to force peace instead of hate, the affected economy could grow, and a growing economy is more beneficial to business.

I think this is an interesting standpoint and that the number one thing we can rely on is corporations looking out for profit and shareholder value. From creating an inclusive work culture and hiring from all backgrounds they can definitely make an impact. However, there is are a new wave of companies highlighted by the technology industry (ie. Google//Facebook) that involve creating an inclusive and peaceful world through not only hiring but the company mission and values. By clearly stating these values and living by them they can permeate into the workforce, so possibly the best thing corporations can do is lead by example, particularly the new age of companies. Recently charity organisations being attached to these larger companies have also been incredible factors in peaceful change.

Camden Newton said:

I agree with your two ideas about why a business might contribute to peace. With that being said, most organizations are primarily only focused on the bottom line and being a successful company. I think it would be hard to convince businesses to start making huge efforts towards peace. A company cares the most about its success so I believe, that is the most important motivator for continuing peace in the future. As Tim Fort noted, respecting employees and treating them fairly contributes to peace. If companies can end the old practices of discrimination based on age, gender, race, and other factors than it can help businesses. By creating an inclusive workforce and hiring people based on qualifications rather than physical differences improves peace as well as the bottom line. The incremental approach also plays a role in this because taking small steps towards overall peace will change the environment and hopefully become common practice. If this is the case peace will eventually be reached and businesses might not even notice they are doing it. 

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