Companies can gain competitive advantage from innovative approaches to conflict, peace and security with corporate peacemaking.
Corporate peacemaking (CPM) is the role of companies when assisting conflict reduction and peace processes in countries at the local, regional or national levels; helping to bring conflict parties like communities, government and/or armed groups together for talks. This includes their participation in peace processes (often via a business collective), or more general support such as funding, lobbying, advocacy or marketing for peace. In-depth analysis of how transnational corporations (TNCs) can implement best-practice CPM, is rare.
Examples of corporate peacemaking
Colombia has suffered widespread violence for half a century. Since 1999, a collective of both TNCs and domestic businesses, the Ideas for Peace Foundation (FIP) has supported Colombian peace processes and a politically negotiated solution. Some of FIP’s founders/members have included Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Cerrejón (BHP Billiton, Xstrata and Anglo American), and SABMiller. Between 1998-2002, FIP advised on organising negotiations with the Marxist guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).[i] In 2012, peace negotiations began again, and FIP and the Colombian Local Network of the United Nations Global Compact (Compact), began a process identifying with business in Colombia, strategies to support the negotiations.
In 2014, the cosmetics TNC, Lush and Peace Brigades International (PBI) raised awareness of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Colombia which provides Lush with cocoa butter. Resisting displacement, their lands draw economic interests and illegal paramilitary groups. Lush and PBI publicised the community’s story through UK-based “meet the Community” events and a petition for the Colombian Government to address the community’s risks and issues of impunity for human rights abuses. In shops, hand massages were given using a Peace Bar made from the Community’s cocoa beans[ii].
Why apply corporate peacemaking?
Briefly, CPM is not only aimed at ‘war zones’, but complex markets with ongoing human rights abuses and poor governance. CPM assists enhanced risk-management, gaining a ‘social license to operate’, leaving a positive legacy, and ongoing business opportunities.
More broadly, corporate peace activity is gaining pace and attention. Membership is growing in the Global Compact’s Business for Peace platform established in 2013, and 18 of the Compact’s Local Networks have joined the platform; some, like Colombia, are actively helping corporate members address peace issues. Goal 16 of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) launched in September to great fanfare, focuses on the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. Companies consulted on the SDGs, identified ‘peace and stability’ as a goal; with targets such as improving mediation and dialogue mechanisms to prevent/resolve conflict and build peace[iii]. Governments, like Norway, are shifting from traditional development aid to the ‘business for peace’ paradigm so companies become partners in peace/development efforts[iv].
Increasingly, tools like indices for corporate ‘peace capital’ will enable the public benchmarking of companies’ peace and conflict impacts. And human rights cannot be enjoyed amidst violence. Companies may find supporting peace processes to reduce violence is the most immediate way to demonstrate responsible prevention of human rights abuses.
Guidance for Corporate Peacemaking
An initial ‘process’ is recommended, to ensure companies do not cause/exacerbate a conflict. They progress across a continuum of approaches to conflict-affected areas, shifting from compliance with law only, to building a CSR policy approach (which can be applied in peaceful societies too and does not necessarily consider the conflict context), to a ‘do-no-harm’ approach (which considers company–conflict dynamics, and requires conflict-sensitive practices), and onto more positive peacemaking/peacebuilding.
For CPM activity, guiding principles and best-practice are identifiable. At the basic level, tools, case studies and research are fundamental. An example of a tool is the ‘Map of CPM Activities’ which helps companies identify approaches. It outlines 14 potential ‘interventions’. These include for example, collective action with business and other actors, lobbying and advocacy for peace, economic advice for peace processes, shuttle diplomacy, supporting peace initiatives at the local, regional and national levels, and global level action. Under each intervention fall an array of activities (e.g. provide conflict resolution training to staff/communities; support research into issues raised when TNCs interact with conflict parties, including opposition/armed groups; raise awareness of peace issues through the value chain using products, marketing etc.).
Competitive advantage: 12-18 months and longer-term
Currently, few companies implement a do-no-harm approach; developing conflict-sensitive practices. Even fewer take a proactive, peacemaking approach. Companies can join the Compact’s Local Networks in their home and host countries, and the Business for Peace platform. Collective action alongside other businesses and civil society provides credibility. Across most industries, a structured, public stance outlining how and when a company will consider CPM and socio-economic peacebuilding, provides a ‘first-mover’ advantage. Companies must gain advice from relevant experts/organisations on how they can develop, or support others’, conflict prevention and peace-focused initiatives for individual markets.
For the long-term, a company can develop a global approach that considers both conflict-affected and more (at first glance) ‘peaceful’ markets like the US/UK. Ad hoc approaches are risky; doing ‘good’ in one market, ‘bad’ in another. Further, ‘peaceful’ markets may not experience violent conflict, but there is growing understanding of how to maintain peace, the economic benefits of peace for business, and ways to address such current issues as inter-faith/cultural conflict and radicalization. Peace Marketing too, is a powerful way to promote inclusive, peaceful communities. Companies that align their corporate culture, strategy, policies, value chain, products and marketing to promoting peace and sustainable development will be strongly positioned for coming years.
[i] A. Guáqueta, personal communication, July 19, 2008.