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Organizational Behavior and Leadership
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Strategy: Understanding the External Environment
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Using Japanese Values to Thrive in Global Business
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Turnaround Leadership: The Differences Between Japan and the West
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Evernote Founder: How Tech Startups Can Break through in Japan
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Women Empowerment: Lessons from Cartier
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Marketing: Reaching Your Target
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Finding Your Life Purpose with Ikigai
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An Investor's Lesson to Entrepreneurs
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Basic Accounting: Financial Analysis
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Digital Marketing Psychology to Transform Your Business
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Peace is often taken for granted in developed countries like Japan. But in the world at large, the number of people fleeing violent conflict in their home country hit a record high in 2019. That’s four years after the United Nations set a goal to achieve “peace, justice, and strong institutions” as its sixteenth Sustainable Development Goal (known as SDG 16) in 2015.
According to a report by the PeaceNexus Foundation, “84% of investors and ratings agencies considered SDG 16 as ‘(very) relevant’ for companies to report on.” And yet, the tendency to prioritize other goals—such as ROI—remains.
How do you start changing minds and priorities in the business world? Moe Sasaki, a project coordination consultant and peace dialogue facilitator with the UN, has thoughts on how you can shift the approach of your organization and help change the world.
Peacebuilding, Starting from the Individual
Sasaki spent her childhood in seven different countries across three continents, including Rwanda—a nation infamous for the 1994 genocide that resulted in the death of over 800,000 Rwandans, many of whom belonged to the Tutsi ethnic group. As her father worked to promote reconciliation between the Hutu and Tutsi people, she was quite literally raised in the peacebuilding field.
Early exposure to conflict and segregated communities left a lasting impact on Sasaki. “As a child,” she recalls, “I spent a lot of time with people from all sorts of backgrounds in Rwanda. Some were widows of genocide perpetrators, some were genocide victims themselves, and some were former prisoners. As a child, I was naive to these things. I didn’t care about their past or where they came from—I simply saw them as uncles and aunts.”
Later, as a university student, Sasaki continued to learn the importance of peaceful dialogue working with Peace Boat, a Japanese NGO that promotes peace, human rights, and sustainability through global voyages. Once, while facilitating a dialogue between Korean, Chinese, and Japanese nationals, Sasaki interpreted for an elderly man who shared a harrowing story about his brother. The brother, shipwrecked on his return from Japan’s colonization of Korea, was saved by a Korean fisherman. This story of compassion between people from warring nations had a profound effect on Sasaki.
“There are difficult issues that still linger between Japan and Korea from past wars,” she says. “But all of us listened to the old man’s story and thought that if there were people willing to help each other regardless of nationality during the war… why can’t we be like that now?’”
A single humanitarian act by a Korean fisherman not only saved a life, but also inspired peace among others generations later. Sasaki hopes to encourage further reconciliation through similar stories and dialogue. It’s a personal mission that aligns seamlessly with the UN’s SDG 16. But individual passion is one thing. Is it possible for corporations to take an active role in peacebuilding?
Sasaki believes it is—if business leaders are willing to innovate their approach, find the right peacebuilding partners, and set proper metrics for success.
4 Ways to Create Successful Corporate-Peacebuilder Partnerships
For a long time, social impact from organizations meant corporate social responsibility (CSR), at best. Over time, CSR has evolved into creating social value (CSV). But moving the corporate mindset away from ROI remains an obstacle—and for good reason. Corporations have a responsibility to investors and shareholders to prove their worth.
Sasaki says it’s possible to move the needle on SDG 16 without letting those stakeholders down—and she has several ideas for how to do it.
Build a peaceful culture from the inside out.
If your company wants to be a part of global peacebuilding efforts, start from within. Sasaki stresses that monetarily investing in NPOs, charities, and other organizations still has value, but if you’re looking for something truly transformational and sustainable, practice what you preach.
“Invest in a business culture that is internally peaceful,” she says. “This would then naturally result in the promotion of a more peaceful culture externally.”
There’s really no downside here—better conflict resolution inevitably leads to a stronger culture and improves buy-in for corporate activities from stakeholders.
Sasaki adds one more benefit: “Through this investment in their own people, corporations build trust and supportive relations with peacebuilding organizations.”
Set new metrics for measuring success.
Once you do decide it’s time to start looking outward, make sure your expectations for impact are practical. Sasaki warns that peace building is, by definition, unpredictable. An attempt to apply classic, steady business metrics will likely leave you disappointed.
“In all aspects of business, you’re expected to demonstrate your achievements with data,” admits Sasaki, “But when it comes to these social programs, you sometimes cannot predict the results. That makes it difficult to get business-minded people to believe in what you’re doing. With our current economic model, investors need to see results on a clear timeline, but peacebuilding often involves serendipity and unseen innovation.”
Communicate with your partners in these initiatives to ensure you have a clear understanding of how things have worked in the past, how they might be improved, and how you should measure “success” going forward.
Be a partner, not a dictator.
Startups seeking funding are often cautioned about going with the first investor who gives them the time of day. To build fruitful, lasting relationships, it’s best to ensure an alignment of vision and mission. You don’t just want any partner—you want the right partner.
The same goes for peacebuilding organizations seeking corporate partners.
Sasaki cites this as a common friction point: “Many peacebuilding organizations choose not to accept funding from corporations and instead opt for funding from trusted grants, individuals, and religious institutions they are affiliated with.”
Why? Because corporate donations often come with strings attached. Talk to the peacebuilders you’re interested in partnering with. Make sure that the partnership is a good match, make your expectations clear, and seek compromises to help achieve what they have in mind, as well.
You might think your money gives you the upper hand, but many organizations are more than willing to walk away if it means keeping their vision intact.
Invest in learning how your peacebuilding partners operate.
If your corporation is (as it likely is) located in a stable, developed economy, it’s hard to imagine the situation on the ground where peacebuilding is most needed. It’s not enough to leave things to the experts—take the initiative to educate yourself and your staff.
In a system known as ryushoku in Japan (or international corporate volunteering in the US), a company sends employees to NPOs or other organizations focused on social impact. In doing so, the company provides their employee with an experience outside of their typical role, enabling unique skill development. The receiving organization also benefits from additional human resources, ideas, and business-minded skill sets.
Ultimately, ryushoku creates a trusting relationship between corporations and peacebuilding organizations. As trust is built, doors will open for further cooperation, such as financial investment from corporate donors.
The ryushoku system is especially valuable for developing young talent, says Sasaki: “Corporations can support passionate young people with generous investment and funding. It is a win-win situation in the long term that will benefit the population and, in turn, the economy.”
Bridging the Gap between Peacebuilding and Profit
Sasaki stresses that, however you support SDG 16, results may be slow. But they will also ripple across generations, not unlike the story of a Korean fisherman who rescued a drowning Japanese man.
And at some point, says Sasaki, it requires faith.
“When corporations build an ecosystem where investments in peacebuilding initiatives are based on a faith-over-data mentality, they will begin to understand the amount of work that goes into peacebuilding. They can also encourage their staff to volunteer their skill sets and be an active participant in the peacebuilding work, which will in turn build a relationship of trust between the corporation and peacebuilding organization.”
Promoting peace in every sector on a global scale, she says, is the only way to achieve a peaceful society—and, by extension, economic stability.