Today, we are living in a polycrisis with multiple vectors that are simultaneously affecting our global society, including the impact of climate change, social inequalities, violent conflicts in the Middle East, Ukraine, Yemen, and Sudan, as well as rising trends in urban violence that include suicides, mass shootings, domestic abuse, homicides, drugs, refugee crisis, etc.
Since the world is now so deeply interconnected, we are all impacted either directly or indirectly, irrespective of our skin color, faith, financial status, socio-economic standing, and political beliefs. Sadly, young people and women have frequently been and will continue to remain amongst the most marginalized and will bear the brunt of these crises.
There is a dire need of compassionate and conscious leadership that can amicably resolve differences, instill hope and harmony, and provide healing and solace. This responsibility is often shouldered by the leaders in the government sector (law enforcement and policy-makers) or the non-governmental civil society sector. However, isn’t it high time for an ‘All Hands on Deck’ approach wherein we must also engage and inspire the private sector to play a positive role in restructuring any activities that might contribute to conflict and to get involved in designing and implementing solutions that actively promote peace, compassion and harmonious coexistence!
The Business Case for Private Sector Investments in Peacebuilding
Some glaring examples, ranging from ‘urban violence’ to ‘global conflicts’, are provided below to showcase how rising levels of violence and conflict also impact the private sector;
Violence, that can range from hurting yourself (suicides) to hurting others (aggression), must be viewed from a public health and social equity lens. Therefore, the solutions for these challenges can be integrated as part of the “S” (social) in environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting framework and must be considered as part of the reporting standards. While the UN Sustainable Development Goals clearly emphasize SDG16 (the need for Peace and Inclusive Societies and Organizations), it remains underrepresented in global sustainability discussions and forums.
The private sector companies must realize that investing in peacebuilding solutions will not only align with their ESG reporting and CSR (corporate social responsibility) goals but also bring significant tangible benefits, including increased revenue, inspired and safer workforce, and access to new markets. We must therefore keep inspiring and holding the private sector accountable for exploring the Business Case for Peace. Indeed, the climate change narrative is important; however, addressing the inner climate and enabling peace and harmonious coexistence is essential for enabling a safer, kinder and compassionate world that we all seek.
The Shared Value of Private Sector Investments in Peacebuilding
Based on my experience of managing Shell’s Gamechanger social innovation program, I have designed the Purpose Innovation Lab to help private sector companies and civil society organizations to discover opportunities that would create shared value by investing in peacebuilding.
In Los Angeles, we were invited to look at novel ways to tackle gang violence. During our research, we found that one homicide costs the city taxpayer approximately 8 million USD. While designing the Purpose Innovation Lab, we brought together former gang members, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers and civil society organizations to build their capacity to promote peace and social cohesion. By enabling positive peace, we showcased a more judicious way of enhancing public health and public safety that will simultaneously also help to reduce violence.
The private sector possesses the inherent ability to take risks, raise significant capital, solve complex problems, and leverage networks that can play a pivotal role in supporting, designing and implementing peacebuilding initiatives across the globe. The Investing and Partnering with Youth for Peace Inception Report, for which I am part of the steering committee, has outlined some high-level work streams to engage the private sector to support young peacebuilders.
Various categories and examples of how the private sector can be involved in peacebuilding are provided below:
Corporations can establish grant programs, scholarships, or sponsorships to fund peacebuilding projects, especially those led by women and young people. This financial support can encompass training programs, capacity-building activities, and the implementation of peace initiatives in conflict-affected regions. For instance, Google’s Jigsaw Project has partnered with organizations to develop technology platforms enabling young people to engage in online peacebuilding activities.
Mentorship and Expertise:
Beyond financial support, businesses can provide mentorship and share their expertise with peacebuilding organizations. By collaborating with these initiatives, private sector professionals can offer guidance on project management, marketing, and organizational development. For example, IBM’s ‘SkillsBuild for Peace’ program provides free digital skills training to young people in conflict-affected areas, thereby enhancing the effectiveness and sustainability of peacebuilding efforts.
Collaboration and Networking:
Private sector entities can leverage their extensive networks to connect young leaders with like-minded organizations, governments, and international agencies. These collaborations foster knowledge exchange, resource sharing, and the scaling up of peacebuilding projects, ultimately increasing their impact and reach. For example, Unilever’s Future Leaders Program supports young entrepreneurs in conflict-prone regions by providing funding, mentorship, and access to Unilever’s extensive distribution networks.
Call to Action To the Private Sector:
- Host a Purpose Innovation Lab: Take the initiative to host a Purpose Innovation Lab within your organization. Discover innovative ways to create shared value by investing in peacebuilding and encouraging your staff to explore opportunities that overcome social challenges (of different types of violence) and simultaneously enable business returns.
- Expand Your CSR Initiatives: While there are undeniable benefits of CSR programs that invest in community skill development, education, health, and environmental initiatives, there is a strong business case for expanding these initiatives to promote mental wellness, peace and harmonious coexistence. By collaborating with civil society, business can foster a nuanced understanding of conflict drivers, enhance brand image security, and develop access to diverse talent.
- Inspire and Empower staff, especially the Next Generation: If your company operates in high-violence neighborhoods (e.g. Walmart, Burger King, etc), you may consider investing in the mental well-being of your own staff and training them to be the change in their communities and neighborhoods and become advocates of compassion, conflict resolution and peace. You may consider opening healing and trauma relief centers in these high-violence neighborhoods.
Call to Action To the Readers:
- Advocate for Change: Encourage businesses to consider the strategies outlined in this essay. Share this message and the call to action within your networks and communities. Advocate for the private sector’s involvement in peacebuilding. If you work for or with a private sector organization, consider approaching leadership with the ideas presented in this essay. Be a catalyst for change within your organization and industry.
- Don’t remain a bystander: Build your capacity to become a peacebuilder and look into ways to bring peace, nonviolence and mental wellness education in your own child’s school or at an organization that you are associated with.
Amid today’s global crises, there’s an urgent need for the private sector not to remain a bystander but to embrace the Business Case for Peace. It’s not just a call to action but an imperative.
The private sector’s capacity to take calculated risks, raise capital, solve complex issues, and harness extensive networks becomes a vital asset in supporting, designing, and executing global peacebuilding initiatives. In a world yearning for kindness, unity, and shared value, the private sector’s role in investing in peacebuilding is pivotal, knowing that peace and prosperity go hand in hand.
Peace is not merely an aspiration but a shared responsibility that we can all fulfill.
The time for action is NOW!
Be The Change – a module on peace, mental wellbeing and nonviolence education
Lead With Peace & Purpose – a module to inspire compassionate leadership
Cities4Peace – an initiative to promote peace and harmonious co existence in communities worldwide