New Developments in Business for Peace and the Role of Companies in War Zones

News | Posted on Thursday 1 December 2022

Chris Williams from the University of York School for Business and Society joins us to start this blog series looking at Business for Peace

This Blog series follows a workshop hosted by the School for Business and Society at the University of York in conjunction with the Interdisciplinary Global Development Centre. In this first Blog in the series, Chris Williams from the School of Business and Society introduces us to the subject of ‘Business for Peace’ and some of the speakers we will be hearing from as the series progresses.  


The Role of Business in long-lasting Peace

The Business for Peace agenda is a growing but highly debated one. It has attracted attention from various scholarly fields (development studies, international politics, law, international business, corporate social responsibility) and areas of practice (MNEs, NGOs, IGOs, consultancy, the media). 

  • Can businesses help to provide the conditions for long-lasting peace in fragile states and zones of military strife and conflict around the world? 
  • How can businesses balance seemingly contradictory interests and avoid irresponsible actions in violent contexts? 
  • What theories help us make sense of this phenomenon, and how can policy be informed by research? 

To help answer these questions, we were honoured to be joined by a wide range of speakers who provided an insight into the latest thinking in the Business for Peace field.


Business Easing the Transition of Women into the Labor Market: A Path to Peace?

We were delighted to be joined by Christina Bache (Brussels School of Governance, Vrije Universiteit Brussel). Christina outlined that the level of gender equality and, more specifically, women’s meaningful inclusion – where women have decision-making authority – across all spheres of society is critical to inclusive peace and development. Women’s economic inclusion is vital to making that a reality and broadening women’s participation from diverse socio-economic, political, and religious backgrounds. 

Business is uniquely positioned to disrupt gender-based constraints and patriarchal cultures that impede women’s agency. However, so long as structural barriers remain, easing the transition and retention of women into the labour market, thus contributing to broader prospects for peace, will stay limited.

You can read more from Christina in her blog Management education and the nexus of business and the women, peace, and security agenda and find out more about Christina’s  work. 


Moving from conflict-sensitive to peace-positive investment

Mark Van Dorp (Bureau Van Dorp & LSE IDEAS, London School of Economics and Political Science) outlined that in recent years, with fragility increasing in most regions of the world, there has been an increased awareness of the need to move from legal compliance and do no harm/conflict-sensitivity to a more proactive approach of business with regards to its potential peace-positive impact

Mark provided an outline of a new way to measure the social impact of businesses operating in fragile and conflict-affected settings by using the concepts of Human Security and Positive Peace, as developed by LSE IDEAS. This approach will enable investors and companies to better measure Environmental, Social and Goverance (ESG) impacts locally, and eventually translate these impact measurements into contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals as well. Integrating the human security approach in ESG measurement systems can help make corporate strategies risk responsive and help to create positive impacts while supporting local development, peace and stability. 

Listen to Mark’s talk here to find out more about his journey into business for peace as an economist and more details on the new approach to measuring social impact by using Human Security and Positive Peace.


Nudges & Bridges

We were then joined by Timothy L. Fort (Kelley School of Business, Indiana University) who introduced us to the concept that peace building is enhanced by certain cognitive orientations.  If parties are in the “mood” for a fight, prospects for peace dim.  This presentation began with the scholarship on moral psychology, blending work of Kohlberg and also of Gilligan.  It then placed this research into more popular terminology related to cultural artefacts, such as sports, music, film…even our pets!  These cultural artefacts provide “nudges” that place human beings in different psychological states of mind.  A subset of those levels are particularly conducive to establishing common ground for those who may disagree with each other on social and political issues, thereby also becoming a bridge for civil discourse and a stepping stone foundation for peace building.

Watch Tim’s presentation here and you can also follow Tim’s Vlog on the subject. 


Management Lessons from Businesses in Conflict Zones: The War in Ukraine

The concept of business for peace has gained momentum in recent years as a way for businesses to contribute to peacebuilding. John E. Katsos (American University of Sharjah) went on to explain that although the literature on Business for Peace is still in its early stages, a few key themes have emerged. 

First, businesses can play a role in peacebuilding by promoting peace and non-violence, supporting conflict-affected communities, and by being responsible corporate citizens. 

Second, businesses need to be aware of the potential risks of operating in conflict zones and take steps to mitigate those risks. 

Third, the literature calls for greater cooperation between the public and private sectors to maximize the impact of Business for Peace initiatives. 

Finally, the lessons of the empirical Business for Peace research are increasingly being viewed as instructive to leaders facing the uncertainty of a crisis-ridden macroenvironment

Find out more about John and his work 


Business in Congo: the solution to the conflict?

François Lenfant (Lenfant Research and Utrecht University) deconstructed the idea that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is better off with 20 years of UN and NGO-based interventions. What the Democratic Republic of the Congo really needs is sustainable, fair, inclusive business!

Listen to François’ talk here


The Politics of Peacebuilding: Businesses as Democracy Defenders in a Post-Ukraine Era

Following his recent talk hosted by the School for Business and Society we were pleased to be joined again by Jason Miklian (University of Oslo). Since the start of the Business and Peace agenda, one topic that tends to be avoided is the corporate relationship to democracy. Firms are increasingly willing to recognize the importance of their role in social responsibility and human rights, but few work significantly on the activity that has the highest correlation to peace: the strengthening of democracy. 

But when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, a host of multinational companies took action in a surprising way. They went beyond the minimum required by sanctions and shuttered operations in Russia, at significant short- and long-term cost. They coupled these actions with strong statements in support of Ukraine and global democracy. 

Are firms truly moving from passive democracy actors to a more active frontline stand? Or is this simply a one-off outlier that will morph back to 'business as usual' in short order?

See Jason’s presentation here


Managing in Conflict and Transition: Towards an Understanding of Peacebuilding Entrepreneurship and a Typology of Action

War and conflict are a reality of life throughout the world. Joanne Murphy (University of Birmingham) considered the often hidden story of organisational actors managing through and beyond violent conflict. 

Drawing on the experiences of individuals and public, private and third sector organizations in Northern Ireland, the Basque region and Bosnia Herzegovinian, Joanne highlighted four distinct peacebuilding strategies and practices that allow for the development of a preliminary typology of peacebuilding entrepreneurship activity. 

  • Social Commitment to Conflict Transformation 
  • Exercise of Political Skill 
  • Exercise of Professional, Expert or Positional Capital 
  • Cultivation of Intra and Inter Organisational Networks of Support 

Find out more: see Joanne’s presentation here


More Blogs in the Series

Blog#2 Leading Organisations in and after Violent Conflict by Joanne Murphy

Blog#3 Delivering Measurable Social Impact through the Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) movement by Jason Miklian

Blog#4: Business - When Crisis Hits by John E. Katsos


   Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams is Professor in Strategy and International Business in the School for Business and Society at the University of York in the UK. He is also Associate Dean of School for External Relations and Knowledge Exchange. His research interests include international strategy, innovation in international firms and contexts, health R&D and organizational resilience.




Contact us

Interdisciplinary Global Development Centre
01904 323716
Department of Politics and International Relations, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, UK

Contact us

Interdisciplinary Global Development Centre
01904 323716
Department of Politics and International Relations, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, UK