CEO: “Peace is Really Good for Business, But Business Is Really, Really Good for Peace”

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Joan M. Larrea, The Chief Executive Officer of Convergence, said that when she was first asked to participate in conversations about how business interacts with peace processes, she thought everyone knew that peace is good for business, “and I also thought it was obvious that business is good for peace.”

“But,” she said, “apparently it’s not that obvious to all parties, hence this report.”

Her reference was to the report “A New Way of Doing Business: Partnering for Peace and Sustainable Development,” a collaboration between IPI, the Sustainable Development Goals Fund and Concordia, and the focus of a September 21st IPI policy forum on “Changing the ‘Business as Usual’ Model: A New Way to Partner for Peace and the 2030 Agenda,” sponsored by the same three organizations.

“We’re long past everybody thinking of business as a rapacious race to the bottom,” Ms. Larrea told the forum. “Economic growth is a prerequisite for peace, and economic growth comes from business, it comes from companies, it comes from investment. So for me the link is obvious.” With emphasis, she concluded, “Peace is really good for business, but business is really, really good for peace.”

Terje Rød-Larsen, President of IPI, said the institute had decided to explore the linkages as part of its research into applying the Sustainable Development Goals “because without business, implementation of the SDGs is not possible. In the end the UN needs the business community, and vice-versa.”

Matthew Swift, co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Concordia, said his organization felt there was a need for translating the public and private sectors to each other.

“Those sectors speak very different languages, but as an institute that focuses on what public-private sector cooperation can achieve, it’s important to get both on the same page,” he said. “And the SDGs do a very nice job communicating to CEOs around the world ways in which they can follow this framework of the seventeen goals towards both changing the way they do business but also thinking about the role the private sector has in various communities.”

Paloma Durán, Director of the SGD Fund, said putting into effect these synergies in the context of the UN presented a particular set of challenges.

“How to engage the private sector, keeping in mind that the private sector is not one homogenous actor and there are different sizes, different regions with different practices,’ she said. She also emphasized that businesses needed to be responsible partners and to incorporate the 2030 Agenda into their core business strategies and policies.

While it was important for the UN to engage big corporations with large resources, she said, “we need to work with small and medium-sized business; not because we want the private sector only as a donor, but because we want a real actor working with us.”

Peter van der Vliet, Director of Multilateral Organizations and Human Rights of the Netherlands, said he was encouraged by the opportunities for collaboration offered by the SDGs and by the growing interest of business in having an impact beyond simply making money. “Whether it’s big multinational corporations or small enterprises, the private sector is increasingly not only about making a profit,” he said. “And try to find one SDG where the private sector does not have an impact, just one. From goal one to goal seventeen, the role and conduct of business is crucial.”

Hedayetullah Al Mamoon, Senior Secretary in the Ministry of Finance of Bangladesh, said that “we should be careful about the difference between developed countries and developing countries because our private sector is not so strong.” He stressed that less developed countries need support to use and scale up innovative financial mechanisms to attract more private investments. The report highlights how new partnerships can be forged to finance the SDGs.

Mats Granryd, the Director-General of GSMA, the trade body that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide and is focused on leveraging broad-based technologies for sustainable development, said members of his group reached more than 5 billion people in their effort “to connect everyone and everything to a better future.”

“There’s no better way of describing that better future than the SDGs,” he said.

Tonye Cole, co-founder and Executive Director of the Sahara Group, said the SDGs had shaped a defining rationale for his business operations, particularly in Africa.

“The SDGs in themselves have created a tool,” he said, “a mechanism for business so we can look at ourselves and say we actually have a voice.”
“And now we can itemize them and say, ‘I do SDG five, I believe in SDG eight, I actually have for years been doing SDG one’,” he said. “Now businesses can actualize it and put words to it.”