The Role of Business in Enhancing Peace and Reducing Violence
3 December 2014 at 10:23 am
While business has always assumed that peaceful conditions foster trade and industry, the idea that business could and should actively promote peace – as an extension of its social responsibility – is new and important, writes Associate Professor Debbie Haski-Leventhal of the Macquarie Graduate School of Management.
While business has always assumed that peaceful conditions foster trade and industry, the idea that business could and should actively promote peace – as an extension of its social responsibility – is new.
PUMA is one of the world’s leading sports brands, selling footwear, apparel and sports accessories for over 65 years. While PUMA is renowned for its efforts on environmental sustainability, it is now gaining a reputation being an important player in the Business for Peace movement.
In 2008, PUMA introduced the “PUMA Peace Initiative” and changed its core mission “to create programs that foster a more peaceful world than the one we live in today”. PUMA’s commitment to peace is manifested by celebrating and promoting the International Day of Peace on the 21st of September, sponsoring peace causes (e.g. Peace One Day) and related sporting events.
In 2010, PUMA launched a long-term partnership to champion independent documentary films on peace, with the Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation, and the company strongly promotes peace through social media (e.g. though the Puma.Peace YouTube Channel).
In 2009, Jochen Zeitz, CEO and Chairman of PUMA at the time said: “We support the aim of Peace One Day and want to make a contribution to the generating of global peace … We are delighted to be a strong and long-term partner of this exemplary initiative.”
A shoe company that enhances peace. Imagine!
The growing trend of ‘Business for Peace’ brought a very strong player to the table of conflict resolution and peace. Through the resources they manage and the people they employ, corporations possess real economic and political power, and have an ability to significantly impact both natural and political environments, and the conflicts derived from both. Business are already major global players and can have an active role in peacebuilding efforts at the local, national, and global levels, which is also consistent with supply chain stability, higher profits and expanded markets.
The basic idea of Business for Peace is that through ethical business behavior aimed at increasing peacefulness, individual businesses can help create the conditions needed for peace and can contribute to the reduction of violence globally. Strong corporate governance with long-term vision could play a vital role in enhancing lasting peace and prosperity in the world as a whole.
Most industries thrive in peaceful conditions, perhaps with the exception of those such as the military-related industry and oil or energy companies (vocal enough to make us believe that war is good for the economy). In addition, business has the power and the responsibility to give back to societies that enable their success, thus gaining a social license to operate. In the course of doing what it does best (building and maintaining thriving enterprise), business also has the potential to encourage economic stability around the world while increasing their competitive advantage.
At the edge of a new crisis (particularly in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe), history had proven that governments and the UN cannot address peaceful resolution alone. We need to urgently develop the idea of Business for Peace, through research, cases, tools and definitions, to enable companies and business leaders to take action.
Business for Peace goes beyond the somewhat limited and controversial idea of corporate social responsibility towards a more inclusive view of the role of business in society and humanistic capitalism. As Porter and Kramer asserted in their famous article on creating shared value: “Businesses acting as businesses, not as charitable donors, are the most powerful force for addressing the pressing issues we face.”
Why is the idea of business for peace so important?
Since founding their ice-cream company in 1978, peace-builders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield used their company to enhance peace. In the early days of the company, Ben & Jerry’s founders and employees used to march for peace and utilise their brand to protest against war and violence.
After its acquisition by Unilever in 2000, Ben & Jerry’s was operating under Unilever’s more conservative political approach and became restricted in their efforts to raise awareness of peace. However, over the last few years the company has managed to shift back towards its peace-building role, established the ‘1 per cent For Peace’ initiative, supported the Peace One Day organisation, and led the “Peace, Love and Ice-cream” campaign to raise awareness and funds towards the current major challenges facing humanity:
“Doesn’t everyone want to live in a peaceful society? Of course – and that’s why Ben & Jerry’s is committed to being a part of the growing peace-building movement. It’s a collection of organizations and individuals (and a few businesses!) throughout the world who recognize that peace is something that we must actively create – by investing in healthy communities, social justice and economic justice for all, and respectful dialogue among people everywhere” (from the company’s website)
Indeed, the major challenges facing humanity (including conflict, poverty and sustainability) are global in nature, and unless we have a world that is relatively peaceful we will not be able to achieve the levels of cooperation, inclusiveness and social equity necessary to solve environmental challenges, foster international financial cooperation or address global poverty.
Furthermore, it is has been well established in the development economics literature that direct violence negatively affects both social and economic development. The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) has conservatively estimated that in 2011 internal violence cost the U.S. economy $460 billion. In the 2013 Global Peace Index, IEP was calculated that if the world reduced its expenditure on violence by approximately 50 per cent it could repay the debt of the developing world ($4076bn), provide enough money for the European stability mechanism ($900bn) and fund the additional amount required to achieve the annual cost of the Millennium Development Goals. Therefore it is possible to see peace as a prerequisite for the survival of society as we know it in the 21st century.
Given the importance of peace for the economy and business sector, it is surprising that the idea of the role of business in peace is underdeveloped. There is growing interest in the idea and the United Nations Global Compact is promoting it, but we still lack a full academic and practical framework to guide business in promoting peace.
Collaboration between business, Government, Not for Profits and academia can help promote the idea of Business for Peace and eventually, enhance peace and reduce violence. This would help the global economy, increase market size, create social impact and most importantly, make the world a better place to live in for more people across the globe.
About the Author: Debbie Haski-Leventhal is an Associate Professor in Management at Macquarie Graduate School of Management and the editor of the academic journal Business, Peace and Sustainable Development. As a scholar of CSR, she initiated and leads the MGSM CSR Partnership Network.