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

(Shengwen Liang) #161

As Mark Zuckerburg and Warren Buffet, many great businessmen and entrepreneur also have great contribution to the peace. Another example is George Soros. He started Open Society Foundation in 1979, which put much efforts on international causes, community development, education and health. The Open Society Foundation is famous for its contribution on human rights. Soros had provided scholarships to black South Africans under apartheid. Those businessmen like Soros and Buffet show the important role business can play in pursuit of peace.

John William Sances Machalek said:

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.

(Saharsh Singhania) #162

I agree with John that for a company like Toms to be able to deliver to its mission of larger benefit to the society, they need to be able to compete with for-profit organizations and even receive subsidies to make it easier for them. However, in my opinion often what happens with organizations such as Toms is that they subordinate the interests of their shareholders to the overall mission of the organization, which creates a huge debate between whether meeting the expectations of shareholders is more important or living up to its mission. If we consider shareholder theory and maxims posited by Milton Friedman, if Toms focused solely on being as profitable as possible, they would not only satisfy shareholder but also meet their mission by giving back more to the society at large. In that sense they can do the best by focusing on being competitive and generating as much as return as possible, which basically means thinking of themselves as a for-profit organization.

The moment they think of themselves as a not-for profit organization, the mentality of the management shifts towards a survival instead of thriving mindset which make them inefficient very similar to governmental organizations. Thus it seems that the best way businesses can contribute to peace is by relying on shareholder theory and maximizing their commercial output.

Marissa Sinai said:

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.

(Saharsh Singhania) #163

Businesses can generate peace and give back to the community and society in several ways and in the modern world where competition is getting fierce among businesses, corporate social responsibility is almost becoming a boilerplate differentiator for businesses, to the point where the term CSR loses its meaning. This can be demonstrated through two examples.

On one hand, we have companies like British Petroleum which go through massive efforts of 'greenwashing' to make themselves appear sustainable and socially responsible through programs such as veteran and women in engineering support programs and funds for olympics and paralympic athletes. Yet when debacles such as oil spills occur, they hold back on the optimum course of action owing to financial 'astuteness'. Thus from a utilitarian perspective their contribution to society nets out neutral at best and one cannot help but wonder if their contribution to peace is anything but a front to neutralize their destructive activities. From Milton Freedman's perspective, such commercial contribution to peace is merely a means to maximize returns to shareholders through corporate image maximization while ignoring other stakeholders.

On the other hand, we have companies such as Google, which have prodigious programs to give back to society such as Code for America, Raspberry Pi, and thousand of hours employee volunteering at local not for profit organizations, it does not publicize them for the sake of appearing charitable and improve customer retention to maximize profits. The majority of people would not even be aware if such programs because that is the true nature of giving back. Corporations such as Google do it to fulfill their social responsibility and to create peace, not merely to maximize shareholder returns through indirect means.

In the light of this perspective, a pressing question comes to mind: "Is it acceptable for business to attempt to create peace for the sake of maximizing shareholder returns or do the means matter just as much as the end?"