Theme 7: Partnership Approaches to Involving Business

I completely agree with what you mentioned above Virginia. I think that it is in the corporations best interest to provide its workers with certain beneficial incentives. These incentives can attract new workers to the firm, as well as keep old workers at the firm. These incentives create a kind of community for the worker - they all unite to do something good for the environment, or other causes. But, of course, there has to be a certain limit. A company can not possible afford or regulate everything that goes on with its employees. But these incentives motivate - and if you have motivated employees - good business happens.

In response to Steven Sciuto…
This is a really good point, and I didn’t immediately realize how these two perspectives could build off one another to be even more successful. Collaborative efforts like this are crucial for peace and sustainability world-wide. It’s not a matter of getting a handful of individuals, or companies, or industries on board. It order to promote peace, our norms have to reflect as a worldwide community. I really like your suggestion about a company subsidizing its employees making decisions that would benefit the worldwide community in support of certification regimes, for instance. Haufler suggests similar campaign to the Blood Diamond one to regulate the timber industry. By setting up new standards, there would be an increased awareness about issues facing the industry. Companies could support these standards by offering their employees specific benefits to enforce the new standard.

Thanks you for broadening this discussion into “partnerships with communities,” a very important, and I believe many times overlooked, organizational stakeholder. In response to your questions, I have found a couple of papers by my colleague Ed Freeman which may be helpful. They are as follows:

  • ENHANCING STAKEHOLDER PRACTICE: A PARTICULARIZED EXPLORATION OF COMMUNITY, by Laura Dunham, R. Edward Freeman, and Jeanne Liedtka (Business Ethics Quarterly, Vol. 16, Issue 1, pp. 23-43. 2006)
    Abstract: Lack of specificity around stakeholder identity remains a serious obstacle to the further development of stakeholder theory and its adoption in actual practice by business managers. Nowhere is this shortcoming more evident than in stakeholder theory’s treatment of the constituency known as “community.” In this paper we attempt to set forth what we call “the Problem of Community” as indicative of the definitional problems of stakeholder theory. We then begin the process of gaining greater specificity around our notions of community and the role of community in stakeholder theory and management. In doing so, we identify the emergence of two fairly new forms of community that we believe are particularly relevant to the stakeholder theorist and practicing manager. These two new variants
    of community—the virtual advocacy group and the community of practice—extend the notion of community in new directions, which have strikingly different implications for stakeholder theory and practice.

  • CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP AND COMMUNITY STAKEHOLDERS by Robert A. Phillips and R. Edward Freeman (Chapter 5 in “Handbook of Research on Global Corporate Citizenship” by Andreas Georg Scherer-Editor).
    Brief Introduction from the chapter: We shall focus on stakeholder theory. In particular, we shall focus on ‘community’ stakeholders. We discuss the source and limits of organizational obligations to communities and describe a typology of potential relationships that organizations may have with communities.

I’m sure that others have additional references and resources for research, so I hope they will share them on this thread.


I should point out that, historically, the solution to the problem of security/ peace was to establish an effective state able to police affairs within its borders. It may be that the best way to promote peace even today is to increase the capabilities of weak states and facilitate the development of democratic governments that care about the security of their own citizens. Ending war and promoting peace are inherently political activities, and it takes political will to overcome the incentives to violence.

On the other hand, when establishing an effective and just state is impossible or has to be a long term goal, then these other mechanisms-- including international and local partnerships that include a role for business-- may be a second-best solution. We certainly cannot simply stand by in the face of extensive bloodshed. Public-private partnerships may provide a framework and incentives that establish a foundation on which peace can be built.

The theme of this weeks dsicussion, “Partnership Approaches Involving Business”, has really got me thinking that if any company wants to make a difference that they must not operate in a vacuum. The partnerships discussed this week range from employee partnerships to community partnerships; yet, what is important is that collaboration is essential. The purpose of this conference is to identify how we can strive for peace through better business practices, and while every theme is important I believe that peace will never be obtained without partnerships. While each type of partnership has its value I was wondering what others perceive to be the most partnership? Specifically, I am curious as to the partnerships that without which peace would not be obtainable. I am curious to hear what your thoughts are…

I agree with your statement about peace being long-term goals and mainly political. However when a country or nation is more stable economically it can contribute to the peace process. For instance violence in poorer nations can be linking to survival. Groups attacking each other for goods and “control.” If partnerships between businesses and government’s take place the goal of peace can be achieved with the help of commerce and businesses.

I agree with you Brandon. I think that establishing business and government partnerships is key in stablizing economies and overall contributing to the peace process. I think an important perspective that should be examined is the tourism industry. If governments with poor, unstable economies establish partnerships with big business corporations, then there may be opportunities for tourism to bring more money into these economies. Theres always going to be people who want to explore new places and if governments can help establish a tourism industry through partnerships, I think there is a lot that can be done. People want to experience different cultures and see different places. If a country can show the prospect for tourism while keeping its culture in tact for people to enjoy, I think there is always possibilities from foreign investors like big corporations. What do others think about this? I don’t know how often, or how feasible it is for goverments to be eager to attempt this, but I think it is possible, and I wonder if these partnerships are even out there. Thanks, it has been enjoyable to read everyone’s feedback on this discussion.


I think your example of the tourism industry is a great example. There are so many partnership possibilities within the tourism industry. Some countries highly depend on tourists to support their businesses, and travel, learn, and buy things/services, etc from them. I agree that larger corporations should really take the initiative and work together with smaller companies and help them with their growth. If big corporations start, I truly believe that governments will follow quickly - and really enable MNCs to work closely with their local businesses. I think overall, this would be very beneficial to all parties, so I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t want to participate in something like this. Thanks.


I think you make a very good point. Partnerships between big business corporations and governments in more unstable economies presents a huge opportunity. Corporations can capitalize on new destinations that they can market to tourists, while they help stabilize economies and offer further support to tourists interested in traveling to these locations. Tourism stimulates so much growth and money that it is a great industry for poorer economies to get involved with if they can. Unfortunately, because poorer economies are often unstable, much of the time there is political unrest and other conflict or instability that scares tourists off. Big business backed tourism offers much more security for tourists, encouraging more visitors, and new destinations offer great business opportunities.

As several people mentioned above, I also strongly believe that partnership in tourism plays an important role in promoting peace. For example, there is a program which is called ‘The International Committee of Tourism Partners’. It is the joint tourism project between Iran and the US. This partnership allows Iranian investors build ties with the US tourism industry under Iranian law and helps to develop tourism and investment projects within the tourism industry between two countries. I think it is a good way to promote ‘Peace through Tourism’.

The merging of two totally different corporations sounds wonderful. I agree with Devon Rose’s comment about making a great enviorment for employees will help enriching the peace in workplaces. It is true that many of the employees, espeically sales people get huge pressures for their company objectives and monthly sales goal. That stresses lead people become careless about peace. It is not their fault that they consider less about peace as we all are living in competitive world. Like Devon Rose mentioned, Microsoft or Google’s effort to make better work place will definitely help ensuring peace in society.

Thank you.

As I can answer and support my opinion and thoughts about having a great work place, I also think that having such a comfortable work place might reduce competibility of works as a whole. They can be reluctant about their work since there is no stress on pressure. Thus, in my opinion, companies like Google, Microsoft and other world top companies should always keep in mind that the control of employees and managing them are the key point for success.



Yes, its “pretty cool” to be in a global discussion! :slight_smile: Especially to know that we are united by a common concern for responsible business and peace, that transcends nationalities, race and beliefs.

To your question “how welcoming and open the indigenous communities you have been working with have been to these aforementioned partnerships?” I shall have to provide a historical context to answer you. In the last century, the indigenous people of N.E. Borneo were described by the late Sir Malcolm MacDonald, the British Governor following the cessation of N.E. Borneo by our Rajah Brooke to Britain, as “people nearest to the dawn of time” - fearsome headhunters but paradoxically innocent, hospitable and trusting, to a fault. Depending on the rainforests for most of what they need, commerce when it first became known to them, was confined to the collection of jungle produce and later, to cash crops (rubber, cacoa, and today oil palm). Half a century later, the ancestors of these people have learnt that the lands on which their life, identity and culture are inextricably linked, are a coverted commodity. They have also learnt that joint-venture partnerships initiated by the State to develop these lands for plantation crops with public cum private enterprises have well-meaning but sometimes unpredictable results in implementation. Some have reaped good dividends, whilst others continue to wait for the percentage returns. I shall not speculate on the reasons for this. Today these latter group regard most business projects involving their land with great suspicion and distrust and this has proved to be a big obstacle to state development. Thus it may be said that what could have brought about “peace” AND PROSPERITY for all has led to a somewhat acrimonious relationship between a big section of the community and the public and private JV partners. Lessons to be learnt for the business community out there???

In my tourism project however, I have been able to reach across to the indigenous community as I am someone from the community (being part indigenous part Chinese) and my university affiliations have put me on a different platform of accessibility.

However even if WELCOME was not a problem in my case, the openess to change in the indigenous community was and continues to be a challenge in various degress. Perhaps indigenous communities of today are clinging to the last vestiges of their way of life and culture. It took several years of social, cultural and most importantly, psychological immersion, to pry open their minds to their heritage as a commercial product that could become their own community enterprise. In the process, my mind has also been pried open to the indigenous way of thinking which has a sublime validity that calls in question our own worldly values.

What finally sold the tourism project idea to the community was the tagline “to preserve the past, to create the future” which was used in a photographic ethnic and cultural showcasing event I organised with a Korean photographer who voluntered to do it for free.

From a consultant of the community tourism project; today I am the middle person between the community and the tourism industry (especially travel agents). Some of these travel agents are subisidary companies of international companies in the tourism trade. So this leads us back to our discussion thread…

Some participants have expressed great expectations about how responsible business initiatives by tourism business enterprises can lead to peace. I would like to share some startling revelations with these participants later…

Marilyn Ong Siew Ai
University Malaysia Sarawak
East Malaysia


You are indeed right about how corporate efforts at community engagement are often poorly done, and in the process undoing all the good it could otherwise have done. And I have seen it become the cause of conflict rather than the harbinger of peace between community and public cum private business enterprises.

Is it because business responsibility has yet to become truly a part of BUSINESS CULTURE? The ACCULTURATION of socially responsible business must be at the top of the agenda of peace through business responsibility. And the CORPORATE ETHICAL AUDIT of a business enterprise plays a vital role to achieve this end. I wonder how many multi-national businesses conduct such an audit today?

Marilyn Ong Siew Ai
University Malaysia Sarawak
East Malaysia


Thanks a lot for the references! What a goldmine! Is this Ed Freeman, the author of the seminal book “Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach” (1984)? Wow!

Can I trouble you to know how I can lay my hands on Freeman, R. Edward & William Evan (1990). “Corporate Governance: A Stakeholder Interpretation." The Journal of Behavioral Economics, 19(4)? I am doing research on corporate directors’ duties and have identified that article as a must read. It goes without saying its relevance to the promotion of business responsibility and peace agenda.

Thanks again!

Marilyn Ong Siew Ai
University Malaysia Sarawak
East Malaysia

I forgot to add that just as the financial and non-financial bottomlines of CSR require KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS, perhaps KPIs are also needed for partnership approaches to involving business in “peace through business responsibility” if the process for peace is to be measurable? Your thoughts on this please.

Marilyn Ong Siew Ai
University Malaysia Sarawak
East Malaysia


Your statement has put a totally different light on our discussion. Ending wars and
preventing war through spreading wealth through business partnerships are two very different propositions. Whilst wars may be business for some businesses, I’m sure most businesses would prefer to stay clear of wars. Nontheless I’m curious to hear how and what businesses you would propose for governments and private businesses to form partnerships in some of the hot spots of the world today?


In state dominated economies where development is led by the state rather than private enterprise, it makes sense for businesses to form partnerships with governments. But we need to add a caveat here - not just any government but democratically elected governments that have the support of the people. For peace is best promoted through democratic institutions. Some examples in the under-developed and developing countries have shown that businesses can in fact suffer a backlash from being associated with an unpopular regime. Such a business will find it has made a not so smart partnership afterall.

Jeong Cho, Katie, Bianca & David

The tourism industry is definately the best industry for partnerships! From the customer to the product, so many people are involved and who may benefit. And its MOST HEARTENING to hear of inter-governmental partnerships in this industry, especially governments who have had difficult diplomatic relationships. The example given by Jeong Cho is just incredible!

At the next level i.e. partnerships between multinationals and communities in the tourism industry in my part of the world however, I would like to share a not so encouraging picture. Since I work as the middle person between community and multinational travel agents, I have discovered in negotiating rates for board, lodging and activities that the business relationship to be PRIMARILY EXPLOITATIVE. For example, for a cultural performance the travel agents pay a small fixed sum irrespective of the number of tourists. As a result of this I have seen many communities go in and then out, of the tourism business. They eventually return to their cash crop livelihood which pays them more. The multinationals on the other hand, earn enormous profits! I argue with these businesses that they need to see their business in the long term and that to be sustainble they need to make the community their partners by paying a percentage. But I see many of them turn away and go to other destinations where the indigenous communities are not wise to their ways yet. I gather these multinationals will continue doing this until they have exhausted their use of the communities and then go to another Asian country. I was informed by one European multinational that it expected the ethnic tourism trade in N. W. Borneo to last for just another 20 years! This is definately not a business partnership approach that will spread wealth and peace across the world.

CHECK OUT THIS LINK to see how business-government partnerships can sometimes go badly wrong:-

Friday, 22 June, 2001, 10:35 GMT 11:35 UK
Exxon ‘helped torture in Indonesia’

Also an illustration of how a multinational business has exacerbated the conflict situation in an under-developed but resource rich country.