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: 482

Replies to This Discussion

Katherine, I agree. Perhaps we can make a statement by encouraging ourselves and others to point out to businesses (when we enter their stores) that their products/services could better support the environment/peace/social development if they developed more environmentally friendly packaging, provided a 'recommendation' book in store, used metal spoons instead of throw away wooden or plastic utensils, etc etc. I was wondering this weekend how difficult it is to even give a friendly suggestion to a store without sounding like a complaint.
Hi everyone,
Thank you to the organisers for the opportunity to discuss this topic. I am currently doing a Phd at Deakin Uni in Australia which explores the actual and potential role of transnational corporations (TNCs), specifically those in the oil and mining industries, in assisting peace processes in intra-state conflict. This can include for example, advocacy and mobilising business support for peace; providing economic advice for peace negotiations; shuttle diplomacy; organising or joining 'peace' focused business organisations; assisting conflict resolution meetings/workshops between conflict parties at the local level or even national level mediations between conflict parties. While my interest lies in the full spectrum of conflict phases, I specifically focus on pre- and during conflict (peacemaking).

In identifying examples of TNCs’ involvement in peace processes, my research has necessarily incorporated the peacemaking work of domestic business involvement as often, TNCs appear to be involved via the peacemaking activity of domestic business. I am looking at examples which are at the global level, national (eg. The Consultative Business Movement in South Africa and Group of Seven in N. Ireland) and at the local levels (again, S. Africa/N. Ireland are good examples).

While I realise this is a contentious area, and am not yet convinced that TNCs have a broad role in peacemaking (my phd is a work in progress...), there are egs out there, TNCs are already involved in diplomacy and politics generally, and hence, there is a window of opportunity here for deeper analysis of what exactly could TNCs (and also domestic business) do in assisting peace processes/negotiations in a collective, coordinated and monitored fashion. Further connections need to be made between the conflict resolution fields and the business world.

I agree we will see a paradigm change in communities’ expectations of business. I think the expectation for business to show its responsibility in assisting ‘peace’ (in many forms) will become the norm. And possibly, where appropriate, this may lead TNCs to develop policies which allow them to be open to assisting the peaceful resolution of conflict in conflict-prone countries. The fact we are having this great conversation proves this may be possible as this area of research has developed so quickly in the last 10 years.

Stephanie, a couple of egs of places to look on business building bridges etc is the Institute for Multitrack Diplomacy (IMTD) in the US – they had some work in Kashmir I think. Check out Palestine International Business Forum (PIBF) – there may be something there. And the regional work of the CBM in South Africa. But, as I think you pointed out earlier, International Alert have fabulous work in this area.

In answering the original questions to this conversation:
1. ‘Peace’ must be part of CSR. While we have to avoid generalisations, much of what progressive business is already doing in CSR could be placed under the umbrella term of Peace. This could help business people to then be more open to other activities which might more specifically assist peace (I think a lot of CSR work by business in Colombia illustrates this). It might also help the paradigm change in corporate culture, both at individual company and global levels.
2. Most industries have a role in supporting peace. Some are on the frontline I think. For eg, the extractives but also media and communications – powerful opportunity there. But I would say most foreign companies could develop initiatives in a collective manner, which may for eg, begin by supporting the peacemaking (or post-conflict reconstruction) efforts of domestic business, NGOs and others in the country in question.
3. While the global economic crisis has forced many companies to reconsider their CSR efforts, possibly this is THE time for pushing forward the ‘paradigm change’ as well as the ideas we are discussing.
Sorry to take up so much space! Just enjoying reading your ideas and conversing. Thanks!!
Hellow everyone,
I think the question of asking business to contribute to peace would easily fit into being an extension of corporate responsibility. Businesses need peace for them to operate without disruption and be able to have maximum productivity.At the same time, where there is peace customers, will be able to focus their attention to new products on the market and probably buy more than in conlfict situations. It does make sense for businesses to contriobute to peace if they are to generate longerterm profits and get value for money
It is an honour for me to be part of this noble global platform which afford me the opportunity to how businesses can be married hamoniously to thier society and environment. Most of my experiences I will be sharing on this platform will be bias towards business practices and their are conducted in the least developed countries and the wayforward to achieving the objectives of this conference.

In the first place the least developed countries are characterised by abject poverty, sicknesses and diseases, wars and corruption. And very often the blame is put on the shoulder of the political wheel. Partly, the businesses must also be blamed for the circumstances that faced people living in the societies they operate in. Especially, in Ghana, where I hailed from and currently staying, the needs often identify by businesses are geared towards profit but not the welfare of the people. I made this observation based on the type of social responsibilities most of these businesses engaged in. If a business practice end up corroding the culture of the people, could there be peace!
Hello to all!

It is a very interesting topic and stimulating discussions.

My submissions to the forum are:

1) Business cannot grow if there is no peace because investors and entrepreneurs hesitate and apprehend to invest where there is insecurity. Hence, business community needs to understand that working towards maintenance or establishment of peace is a mandatory responsibility for them. Therefore, the policy and strategy followed by business establishments should ensure that no contribution in cash or kind is given to any agency that works against peace; and, as far as possible build up ancilliary industries through supply chain or product/service delivery chain, as appropriate to the type of business,that would generate more employment, which, in turn, would facilitate to alleviate poverty and build an inclusive society.

This approach is especially of relevance in the potentially turbulent region of Central and South Asia, Latin America and Africa - all of which has huge market, significant natural and human resources, and considerable business potential that can be better harnessed in a more peaceful and stable scenario.

2) Global economic melt down demands reduction of extravagant and redundant expenditure, rightsizing as opposed to retrenchment, and introduction of innovative schemes of productivity-efficiency based incentives that would assist to improve output effectively, efficiently and economically so as to serve the customers by passing on a part of the benefits/savings attained through this means.

It is a time to follow constructive approach rather than drastic steps that lead to further deterioration of the present situation.

3) Should not the companies discontinue "target" driven management or reconsider setting realistic growth figures because the "target" driven management approach exerts undue pressure on employees, leads to raise the ambition and greed of top executives, and results in corporate misgovernance causing fraud on unsuspecting minds as have been seen in different countries in the recent past.

I look forward to your valuable inputs.

I cannot agree more with your first point. It is naive to think that any business will go into a war zone, or even an unstable, angry zone. To think that one can "make" peace by doing business is lacking in understanding of the fundamentals of business. I cannot see how "peace" can be made (mandated to be?) part of "corporate social responsibility" as some posters are suggesting.

What does happen is that people in war zones see a higher standard of living in other places, which is brought by healthy trade. They want what they see. This becomes a motivator for peace, but it is only that.

The question is still and always, how can you stop a war or an oppression? You can have all the motivation in the universe but that has a hard time stopping bullets. In America, our own Revolution in 1776 only succeeded because England was such an incredibly long way away. That, and incredible good luck on top of determination and motivation.

I think we all must admit that business cannot "make" peace happen. Business, done with ethics and integrity, can prevent wars, and today's internet connectivity can make shame a more common punishment for nasty governments.

War can only be stopped by people with the courage and resources to terminate people like Idi Amin, Josef Stalin, and Adolf Hitler. And again, given the deadly effectiveness of modern weaponry, that is a very tall order in any situation.

To consider your second and third points, greed and flamboyant extravagance have been with us from the beginning of time. We are not likely to get rid of it any time soon. Individuals are afflicted with greed and governments are obnoxiously greedy as well, so the present attempts to shame corporations for greed and self-indulgence are quite disingenuous. Jesus of Nazareth was quite right to point out that those who point fingers usually have as much or more to be ashamed of.

It is our responsibility as consumers and stockholders to vote with our dollars and our feet in dealing with business as well as with governments and individuals with respect to their integrity. One person's purchases and one person's feet may not seem to be a whole lot, but there are over twelve billion feet on this planet and we can collectively change the course of anything.

I am very much in agreement with the Conscious Capitalism principles espoused by John Mackey's FLOW initiative (http://www.flowidealism.org), and those same principles drove my own venture (described elsewhere in this discussion) ansd will do so again. Business should operate best when all of its stakeholders are getting the fairest shake possible, by design. In my opinion, that's the way everything in life should run, but many of our cultural institutions and organizational systems are sadly locked into woefully authoritarian, psychotically pathological models because people are afraid to declare that the naked emperor is greedy and insane and should be induced to retire gracefully.
Dear All,

Yes, i would agree entirely that asking businesses to contribute to peace is part and percel of CSR.In fact, it should be a key component of businesses that operate in conflict zones.

In Kenya, east Africa, a number of large Corporates like EABL Kenya Breweries Have for year supported the so called Peace Runs in parts of the country affected by ethnic clashes in conjunction with International athletes.These are marathon races through the counryside that bring together the two or more warring communities in a peaceful contest and where the winners are rewarded.

It has worked very well with the partnership with foreign embassies, notably the US Embassy.

The Global Financial Down Turn is likely to render such events unlikely because of flagging profits, sales,massive layoffs and loss of markets all of which will shrink revenues that would have been used in such noble ventures.

Solomon Mpapale,
I believe that a business conducted in a responsible way in a stable environment moves towards peace. I do not think that a business must go out of its way to create peace; peace will come when there is stability. The question that must be asked, however, is how is stability created? As Mr. Sullivan points out, market capitalism is essential for the success of business. There is quite a clear correlation between free markets and economic stability. Therefore, the first step a country must take is to give business a stable environment and prosperity and peace will emerge.
I think the recent global economic downtown will either propel or deter corportate social responsibility. As green mangement is also efficient, there may be a rise in this type of management. But corporate social responsibility programs that are extremely costly may experience set-backs. A facet of CSR is providing quality employment opportunites for those who do not have the oppportunity for employment, so in the years following the downturn, we may see a lot of that. Despite the downtown, CSR efforts are a growing trend that contribute to firms' reputation and thus can be profitable as well.
It is interesting that Iceland was ranked highest on the Global Peace Index for 2008, when in 2009, it country has been the European country that has been hit the hardest by the recession. Will Iceland hold its title in the 2009 Global Peace rankings? Or will the country be hit so hard by the recession that its rankings will drop? What do you think?


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