Investing in Peace

Today, PPI’s Technical Assistance Program Director, Brian Cognato, writes about a conference he attended recently on Corporate ‘Strategic’ Responsibility, hosted by Partners for Democratic Change and the Institute for Transatlantic Relationships. He shares what he learned and its implications for PeacePlayers International’s work below.

When companies like the Nets invest in PPI, are they also making communities a better place to do business?

Is it good business to invest in peace? Most often, when we think of corporations’ efforts to support social goals, we view them as “extra,” or complementary to their core business functions. They’re “corporate social responsibility,” “community relations,” or “giving back” – the implication always that supporting social development is not in the service of a company’s business goals directly but an external “responsibility” to others. But what if that’s not actually the case? What if an investment in social development could be every bit as important to a company from a bottom-line perspective as an investment in its infrastructure or its staff?

That’s the case that an impressive group of speakers made again and again at “Corporate Strategic Responsiblity: What’s Next for CSR?” a conference organized by Partners for Democratic Change and the Institute for Transatlantic Relations, together with the GE Foundation and the International Finance Corporation CommDev Office.  We picked it apart from several different angles and asked some challenging questions, but the core of the argument is this: A society with peace, good governance, an educated workforce and high standards of living is good for business. Take the time to invest properly and thoughtfully and a company can not only fulfill its “responsibility” to give back but actually create a much better business climate for itself – something that will ultimately benefit its bottom line.

In the video below, learn about PPI’s relationship with Sasol in South Africa, one company that sees the value of investing in programs like PPI.

The closing keynote speaker, Congressman Jim Marshall, President of the U.S. Institute of Peace, shared a shocking statistic with us: violence costs the world an 8.7% reduction in growth each year. By comparison, the global recession of 2009 cost the world one-half of 1% of growth. If we move the needle on violence, we make the world a more productive place, and that’s something that matters as much to corporations as it does to individuals.

We at PeacePlayers International couldn’t agree more. The costs of conflict are staggering, particularly civil conflict – prone as it is to stop, restart and collapse into gridlock. That’s why we work to repair and strengthen the fabric of communities, to engage in the long-term, restorative process that helps a community not only overcome conflict but also thrive in its post-conflict life and sustain the shocks that can lead to new violence. Just as a united team will play together and play to the best of its ability, a united society stands the best chance of fulfilling its potential – for its people, for the world, and yes, for its corporate citizens as well.

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