Building Peace and Profit

Art credit: Svitalsky Bros

Peace-building and making money? Really??!! Wars, yes - ostensibly architected to claim, defend or strip ownership and resources on whatever grounds politicians are able to justify...but it is these big, bold and bureaucratic interventions that more often than not fail to finish what they started…. and so it falls to the private sector and/or social enterprise to pick up the pieces and restore some semblance of prosperity. Understanding the role that these agents can play in making these peace building initiatives resilient, economically self sufficient, and even investible means recognizing those that stand above the rest.

Why Peace?

The month of May marks the recognition of Goal 16 which is Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.  All three are wholly necessary in maintaining social cohesion, judicial legitimacy, and state confidence. In 2017 alone, the world economies spent more than $1.7 trillion on arming their militaries and security forces. According to the UN, an eighth of that amount could eliminate extreme poverty and hunger.  So what if we could refocus these energies and resources on more socially progressive innovations, technologies, medicine, research, and more?  As companies reexamine their true purpose and nature, taking part in international development projects and serving as mediators to conflicts both domestic and international has become increasingly essential and profitable.

Peace Projects in Play

Below are a few examples of how brands and businesses have created sustainable high impact peace-building projects that have also given them a commercial advantage:

  • Development: Physical rehabilitation such as repairing roads, bridges, housing and other infrastructures.  The Swedish development firm Skanska leads the way in this.

  • Demining: The presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) alone (110 million exist globally) constitutes a great risk to life in countries where conflicts may have been over for decades.  Major for profit firms like SafeLane Global and DynCorp have performed projects in cleaning out munitions.  Also in terms of partnership, companies like Salesforce, Microsoft, and Adobe have used their technology and funding to help Halo Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to demining, to accomplish their mission as well.  

  • Cooperative projects: Cisco Systems has served the role of mediator of conflict by investing $10 million in training Palestinian programmers in the West Bank and included Palestinians and Israelis on the same programming teams. Due to the success of the project more than 300 Palestinian technology firms now employ 4,500 people.  

On a more domestic level I am Your Protector promotes stories of ordinary people from varying backgrounds helping others from different communities to help eliminate social division, hate, and extremism.  While I am Your Protector is a nonprofit it partners with several for profit organizations and is hosted by universities, foundations, and even National Geographic.  

Another example, Away Travel, a clothing and luggage company partners with the nonprofit Peace Direct which aims to end violence in global areas of conflict.  This is done through sharing collected stories and showcaseing photo galleries of those expeirence violence to the wider public.  Chances are if you’ve bought a luggage bag or article of clothing from Away Travel, you’ve also contributed to their work.

Promoting peace is not simply the domain of governments and major international organizations.  Foundations, nonprofits, and businesses all have a role to play in this regard, and once many realize the method of turning purpose into profit the result can be exponential.   Whether its mediating conflicts through grassroots level work or providing jobs as an alternative to taking up arms, businesses themselves can benefit from an enhanced image and purpose by becoming involved in a positive social impact cause.  This, in short, is one of the many ways to help transform peace into profitable social enterprise.

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