A discussion moderated by Cindy Schipani, Professor of Business Law, Ross School of Business

Visit Biographies for more about presenters

How can business contribute to sutainable peace?
In this session leaders from business and NGO institutions provide their understanding of the ways that commerce and peace link together. The presentations focus actual experiences of institutional leaders and empirical testing done of the relation of business and peace. The speakers range from groceries to tourism to technology to international development.

What do leading business and NGO leaders see as the contribution business can make to sustainable peace?

Watch the four videos and join the discussion with presenters below.

Steve Killelea, Australian Entrepreneur and Philanthropist, Founder of Global Peace Index

"The Compelling Case for Business to Embrace Peace"(6:41)

Walter Robb, President & Chief Operating Officer, Whole Foods Market

"How We Do Business Matters: the Case for Conscious Capitalism"(5:34)
Presentation slides Full Presentation Video

Roger Dow President & CEO
Travel Industry Association of America

"Peace From The Perspective of the Tourism Industiry"(9:28)

John Sullivan Executive Director
Center for International Private Enterprise

"The Center For International Private Enterprse's Public-Private Partnerships and Peace"(8:37)


Discussion: How can business contribute to sutainable peace?

1. Is asking business to contribute to peace an extension of corporate social responsiblity or is it something different?

2. Each speaker provides a concrete, positive example or set of examples where businesses have made a contribution to social harmony. Do you think the kinds of businesses and NGOs they represent in these industries can replicate what these organizations have done? Are there other busineses that you think could also play a leading role in promoting peace?

3. What impact, if any, do you think the recent global economic downturn will have on these efforts?

Views: 478

Replies to This Discussion

Addressing the second issue will as well contribute to peace, I believe. In fact, a decent infrastructure (let it be the energy resources or clean water or just transportation infrastructure) will highly impact the conflicts. Shortly, there will be more resources distributed more evenly with the help of infrastructure and as Roger Dow claims, interactions among parties might decrease the level of tension.
I want to start by thanking the organizers for the opportunity to discuss these issues in a world wide environment. I am sure at the end we all will have a better understanding of the problems, we will become familiar with new approaches and probably more importantly we will be more determined to do the best we can to create a better world for this generation and the generations to come.
Allow me to make some comments.

1. It is going to be very dificult to find a simple answer to the questions. As seen in all the discussion generated until today, we can find a multitude of experiences, stories, successes and concerns that differ depending where we work and live.
2. I personally think that the issue of social responsiblity, even though is correct and valid and we should encourage, is born out of the lack of humans to live by moral standards that permeate to our business life. In this sense no one should have developed a business to exploit people, resources and destroy our environment. However we did so and now we are trying to bring back our moral and universal values to the business world. That is welcome.
3. I am not sure if it is social responsibility or something else, however I am sure that business and the society in general need to wake up to the needs of our world and develop new paradigms to make this a better world. Would this imply to change our business practices and call them social responsible practices? Then so be it...but also will imply to change in our personal actions from the simple way in which we use water to the way we relate to people.
4. The easiest answer to the second question is that yes they can be replicated, but in order to be replicated we need to recognize that the experiences showed by the speakers took place in countries in which there was a certain stage of development attained and in which there is a clear and transparent political, judiciary and legal system. This prompts the quesiton of what is first? business of the existance of an institutional environment to promote first of all justice and accountability. I tend to agree with the speaker that emphasized that we need to create an institutional framework in order to change the way we do business. The intriguing question is how?..How can we change when people in power will not allow change?. How the people at the bottom will obtain rigths if they cannot even be sure they can be represented?. I guess we still have a long way to go
4. Can the current financial downturn affect these efforts?. I surely think yes. Unfortunately I think that the most dramatical effects will be contrary to what we expect. Companies will put more attention into their bottom lines and will reduce their concern on social responsibility. The good think is that also this crisis, that is taking place in a more communicated global society, will create a new concience.

Thanks for this forum

In response to the question of whether or not the recent global economic downturn will have an impact on sustainable peace, I would argue that the recession will have an impact on these efforts. It is a fact that in times of economic trouble, businesses cut back. We have already seen these cut backs in jobs, advertising, training programs, etc. However, many believe that those organizations that continue to invest in their future are the ones that bounce back the quickest when the economy turns around.

I would argue that although many companies will cut back on, or eliminate, their CSR efforts during this global economic downturn, some companies will see this as an opportunity to make a greater impact. These companies will invest in sustaintable peace efforts.

I am curious - Does anyone in this conference have a sense of which companies are cutting back on their efforts and which are continuing to invest? What has the response been thus-far?
If the positive examples provided by the speakers can be replicated..?..If are there other business that can promote peace...?...well, I would say that a more sounded question is how each business sector and each business alone can play this leading role in promoting peace. The general principles and values in a society are the base of how a business will perform in terms of peace creation. In a society where human values and principles have been clashed by political and economic instability, business´s performance would be based in distrust in their employees and government. Here is when a new generation of leaders need to be encouraged. New leadership and new ways of do business would make the difference in peace creation.

Strong economic downturns normally shake all structures at economic and social levels so hard that new structures and institutions emerge and other disappear. The present downturn affecting the world may be an opportunity to place new challenges for business. It has been clear that greed blind business people and the consequences are disastrous specially for all and specially for small and medium enterprises and working people. Since there is nothing that can be done to reverse this situation, the challenge now is how to introduce this vision of peace creation into a new generation of business people, of rules and institutions, of ways to do business where equality prevails. From this starting point, peace would have a chance.

Hope this makes sense!
Elsa, I could not agree more. People in struggling countries have many things to bring to the table. They have time, they have intelligence, and they have hunger. I speak not of hunger in the belly, but hunger in the heart and mind that drives them to do more to get ahead.

Before there is a vision of peace creation, there must be a vision of individual prosperity. In my case, I put young Ukrainian programmers to work. Their income helped their families and their communities escape dependence on the Ukrainian version of the Mafia.

Not every country has the groundwork in infrastructure and education. In fact, the two primary programmers I hired helped install the top end of the Internet infrastructure of their country. This is why India and China are surging ahead now, but there are many other countries with similar situations to Ukraine that can be leveraged for different industries. Not enough to entice a multinational, but plenty big enough for a small business to develop a profitable trade relationship. As you say, economic instability creates opportunity!
I most definitely agree with Elsa's and Donald's optimistic comments about today's economy.

I see "asking businesses to promote peace" not as an extension of CSR but as a paradigm shift. And the speakers obviously prove that it is possible for any kind/size of business operating anywhere on the world to promote peace.

Hopefully, the businesses/entrepreneurs will also see this downturn of the economy as an opportunity to change their visions, their understandings about how they should run their businesses.
Hi Everybody,
My name is Alexandra Ospina and I'm working for GTZ in Colombia related Prive Sector role in peacebuilding.
In relation to the the first question I would like to share with you our experiences concerning the boundaries of CSR and Peace. I think, the difference between a corporation which implemented CSR in Iceland and another in Colombia is that the second one has to consider armed conflict, victims and war economy (between others).
We have set up a Business Prize to businesses which building peace in Colombia, and in general many companies put inside of CSR some activities related to peace.
That's a great example, Alexandra! What kind of activities related to peace are the businesses undertaking?
This difference statement, in my point of view, also answers the questions about Mozambique and USA/South Africa and Rwanda. (The questions were asked earlier this week). When there is an ongoing or recently ended conflict in your lands, the numbers in Global Peace Index might be a little bit misleading.
It feels great to be a part of this and I would like to thank everyone involved.
A lot of good points have been made on what is a complicated topic.
I just want to give you an example of how business joint ventures can contribute to peace. This article from the Economist talks about how joint cheese production has brought people from Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan closer.
For those who don't know the context, the borders that Armenia shares with both Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed due to a 'frozen conflict' dating back to the early 90s. That makes this effort very commendable and a real contributor to peace.
It's wonderful to be sitting here in Armenia and sharing thoughts with people from around the world through this e-conference!
Dear colleagues I am delighted to join this discussion and may I take this opportunity of thanking WBI&ICR for this great initiative.

I agree with Mr.Robb point of view and consider that the level of awareness or consciousness of business leaders makes the difference, there will be always 'leaders and followers' and we could encourage leaders (persons and/or companies) to be open and share best practice/show benefits in order to involve others, to promote their way of decision making and results that they get. Invite them to develop programs on level of public-private partnership, because those people - on mission and think free and strategicly. It is highly important competence especially in our time. By the way, SME owners/leaders in many cases more open to CSR and other initiatives.

I think particularly in area of Corporate Governance there is a lack of professional ethics and 'holistic sense', I am not sure if I am clear, let me give an example - as co-founder of the Association of management consultants I see the role which management consultants and other consultans can play, because they are individually commited to their professional codes of ethics and responsibile for own actions and solutions. The problem could appear when there is conflict of personal and corporate interests - people choose peace. What price they are ready to pay for True Peace?

I hear from local businessman a lot that the recent global economic downturn disclose 'was your decision based on true values?', 'Who are people around you' and so on. So it is good time to reconsider personal/corporate/state/world visions and join hands opening new initiatives.

I see it is very profoundly discussion.

As a college student I have noticed that my peers and I have become increasingly concerned with the origins of the products we purchase. I choose to support products that are not made through the use of sweatshop labor or through processes that will negatively effect our environment. However, these products typically sell at a premium and with the economic crisis purchasing products, spending on what many view as "extra" is not always feasible. I have sometimes had to substitute purchasing products that carry the label of free trade or organic, for cheaper less sustainable products. I believe that the economic crisis will greatly effect the movement towards the more ethically driven spending.


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