Why might business contribute to peace?


(Paul-Andre Wilton) #21

i'm Paul-Andre Wilton. I work for CARE International UK, based in London as a senior policy advisor with a focus on conflict, fragility and humanitarian issues. I have a background in peacebuilding, but I'm coming to this discussion based on some of the thinking we're doing around the role of the private sector in fragile contexts, and the added value that businesses can bring to building social cohesion, as well as tackling some of the drivers of instability.


(Molly M. Melin) #22

I’m Molly Melin- a professor in the Political Science department at Loyola University Chicago.


(Michelle Breslauer) #23

Hi Everyone - thanks for inviting me to participate. This is Michelle Breslauer with the Institute for Economics and Peace.


(karen newman) #24

What is increasingly clear from our work at the SDG Fund (a UN development mechanism, multi-donor agency that brings together UN Agencies, governments, civil society and business to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals) the complexity of the SDGs converge a guiding set of principles of interest to all actors.

We see peace as a baseline for companies to invest in the SDGs. And we know that business are a vital and meaningful part of how we will continue to deliver on the SDGs, especially in the recognition that companies both large and small have the opportunity to contribute towards shared economic, social and environmental progress.


(Timothy L. Fort) #25

I think one thing that is important to bear in mind is that "business" is complex and varied. There are all kinds of different businesses from multinational corporations to state owned enterprises to entrepreneurs. The reasons for contributing to peace can vary just as businesses themselves vary


(Zahid Torres-Rahman) #26

Ok - let's start with our first question:

Q1: What motivates business to contribute to peace? Of these motivations, which one(s) might be the most important in the future?


(jimena leiva roesch) #27

Hello everyone, I am Jimena leiva Roesch- I work for the International Peace Institute in New York. I am currently working on the links between the SDGs, peace and business.


(Timothy L. Fort) #28

Just to follow up on my last comment. Peace entrepreneurs, like other social entrepreneurs, might contribute to peace as part of the company's mission. A multinational might be more instrumental: businesses might fare better if bombs aren't dropping on their offices. State-owned enterprises might be carrying out the objectives of their nation. Still others might not even know they are contributing to peace, but do so because their actions are respectful, just fair while also obeying laws and creating jobs and economic development.


(Molly M. Melin) #29

I see this as a two sided story: one side creates the demand for proactive businesses (the nature of the working environment, for example), the other created the supply of engagement (such as the culture and size of the business). We can best encourage involvement by showing how these factors combine to make engaging in peacemaking in businesses interests.


(Paul-Andre Wilton) #30

True, but on a very basic level surely they all share a defensive interest in stability. Uncertainty and instability are an anathema to most businesses (some will of course thrive in this environment). However, at the extreme, violent conflict is harmful to just about every aspect of business practice. The starting point is that most businesses would not want to contribute to undermining peace, it might be different to what extent they have the vision, the interest or the capacity to be more proactive.



Timothy L. Fort said:

I think one thing that is important to bear in mind is that "business" is complex and varied. There are all kinds of different businesses from multinational corporations to state owned enterprises to entrepreneurs. The reasons for contributing to peace can vary just as businesses themselves vary


(karen newman) #31

I agree with Tim, SME's and large multinationals have very different mindsets and missions, but safe and resilient institutions linked to a business environment are still vital for most who decide to invest in a region. Likely further motivation is linked to the fact companies care about the places they live, work and do business.


(Timothy L. Fort) #32

Yep, fully agree Paul Andre. I think there is a shared rational for peace among all human beings (though the levels of that may vary) and the same holds true with businesses. They just might have more specific tactical ways of getting there.

Paul-Andre Wilton said:

True, but on a very basic level surely they all share a defensive interest in stability. Uncertainty and instability are an anathema to most businesses (some will of course thrive in this environment). However, at the extreme, violent conflict is harmful to just about every aspect of business practice. The starting point is that most businesses would not want to contribute to undermining peace, it might be different to what extent they have the vision, the interest or the capacity to be more proactive.



Timothy L. Fort said:

I think one thing that is important to bear in mind is that "business" is complex and varied. There are all kinds of different businesses from multinational corporations to state owned enterprises to entrepreneurs. The reasons for contributing to peace can vary just as businesses themselves vary


(Paul-Andre Wilton) #33

I like this structure. On the demand side there could be significant reputational risks for not being proactive in social movements that align with the values of consumers or in-fact staff. I’m told by our Women’s Economic Empowerment team that there is significant evidence to show that ‘millennials’ are clear that their preference is to work for organisations with a positive social purpose as part of its business model. To recruit the best, businesses may need to be more overt about the positions they take and support in society. Peace writ large might not be the thing the organisation works in, but support for particular norms through inclusive work policies could be examples of how the culture of an organisation has to change to reflect broader movements in society.



Molly M. Melin said:

I see this as a two sided story: one side creates the demand for proactive businesses (the nature of the working environment, for example), the other created the supply of engagement (such as the culture and size of the business). We can best encourage involvement by showing how these factors combine to make engaging in peacemaking in businesses interests.

(Molly M. Melin) #34

I agree with this and think the key is understanding variation in contributions across businesses. If this were content, we would see all businesses facing the challenges of instability in the same way (as in, all Colombian companies reacting to FARC similarly). We need to understand more clearly why some companies facing instability engage communities and others do not. I think it's also interesting to think about how this might change over time- can we help create a culture of engagement in a business where there hasn't been one historically? Or is corporate culture too hard to change?


Paul-Andre Wilton said:

True, but on a very basic level surely they all share a defensive interest in stability. Uncertainty and instability are an anathema to most businesses (some will of course thrive in this environment). However, at the extreme, violent conflict is harmful to just about every aspect of business practice. The starting point is that most businesses would not want to contribute to undermining peace, it might be different to what extent they have the vision, the interest or the capacity to be more proactive.



Timothy L. Fort said:

I think one thing that is important to bear in mind is that "business" is complex and varied. There are all kinds of different businesses from multinational corporations to state owned enterprises to entrepreneurs. The reasons for contributing to peace can vary just as businesses themselves vary


(Paul-Andre Wilton) #35

The future question builds on what Tim and Karen, you are saying about size and capacity. The world is arguably becoming more risky: the growing threat of climate change; the changing balance of power across the world between nation states undermining old certainties; the impact of conflicts in terms of economic and social shocks; the greatest number of refugees the world has ever seen... It will be harder and harder for large private sector organisations to ignore the market effects of this instability. Against this backdrop the argument for the prevention of conflict and investing in peace because more powerful, even if it is framed as a instrumentalist concern rather than being driven by values.


(jimena leiva roesch) #36

I agree with Timothy that "business" is not a monolith- what is important is to encourage a new business model that creates incentives for businesses around the world to get involved and support them in aligning their current work with bigger visions such as the Sustainable Development Goals.

In other words, we want business to be involved in "fighting poverty" not for philanthropic purposes but because in the long-term it makes them more competitive.


(Zahid Torres-Rahman) #37

Thanks for all the great comments so far. Let's move on to our second question:

Q2: 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?


(Timothy L. Fort) #38

Wow, this is great stuff! Could talk with you folks for a long time! I do think corporate culture is malleable. Hardly any corporate culture considered environmental issues 30 years ago and now a lot do. Sometimes it is just window dressing and sometimes more sincere. But even if it is window dressing it is step toward the recognition of the social demands made of business, which is what I am interpreting Molly's model as suggesting.


(karen newman) #39
  • Interesting that Molly mentioned one of the places we have a program- Colombia, where long term armed conflict has damaged local production, institutions, food security, and social trust, our private sector partners are contributing to peace building by creating training and job opportunities for disarmed combatants and/or by bringing affordable water services to the regions most impacted by the conflict.

(Molly M. Melin) #40

What I'm seeing in my research is that almost every sizable company has some sort of CSR-type page on their website. The key is sorting out which programs are creating something and which ones are just a webpage. Many of these programs may help both peace and the company (for example, one help pay for new tires for police cars), I think that these types of programs encourage an important movement forward.

Timothy L. Fort said:

Wow, this is great stuff! Could talk with you folks for a long time! I do think corporate culture is malleable. Hardly any corporate culture considered environmental issues 30 years ago and now a lot do. Sometimes it is just window dressing and sometimes more sincere. But even if it is window dressing it is step toward the recognition of the social demands made of business, which is what I am interpreting Molly's model as suggesting.