Helping businesses contribute to peace: Chloe’s story

Chloe Cranston is the Corporate Engagement Adviser at International Alert (Alert).

How does the work you do contribute to peace?

I work with Alert’s corporate partners to promote conflict-sensitive business practice, working to ensure that companies and institutions working or investing in fragile environments do not inadvertently exacerbate or fuel conflict, but instead operate in a way that promotes peaceful and inclusive societies. This involves analysing companies’ policies and procedures, conducting trainings and field assessments with companies and their contractors, and working with Alert’s country offices to develop and implement programming involving the private sector.

Describe your typical day at work?

Some days are spent in London, designing trainings and other materials, doing research, writing reports, and, of course, admin! Others are spent abroad – for example, I was recently in Kenya with International Alert’s country team for a workshop relating to Alert’s new project on oil governance in the Turkana region, and next week I will be in Italy leading a training with company staff and contractors on human rights and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (a collaboration between multinational extractive companies, governments and NGOs to agree to principles that mean companies minimise the risk of human rights abuses in communities near their extraction sites).

What role do business/jobs have in helping to build and maintain peace?

How a company can influence peace is nuanced and dependent on the context. Importantly, it must be understood beyond the paradigm that the role of business is around job provision. At a local level, companies and investments may positively and negatively impact the entire political, economic, social and environmental ecosystem, particularly in fragile environments where there may be no other significant investment and a lack of pre-existing legal and regulatory frameworks. In such places, companies can have a role in driving social, political and economic equalities, enabling space for dialogue and inclusive decision-making, promoting enhanced environmental standards, and accountable and transparent governance.

Companies are not expected to do this alone, however. International Alert’s experience has shown that business can have the greatest impact promoting peace and conflict resolution if they work in collaboration with others, whether communities, government, peer companies or NGOs. For example, the Philippines programme’s work with the Mindanao Business Council, or the Uganda programme’s business and peace programme which focused on a multi-stakeholder approach including companies.

For companies interested in understanding how to contribute to peace, what piece of advice would you give?

Context context context! Just as with Alert’s own peacebuilding programming, any peacebuilding initiative must be designed based on the local context, engaging with the key drivers and root causes of conflict, identifying entry points and opportunities for positive contributions such as I have mentioned above. However, positive cannot cancel out the negative - companies must prevent creating, fuelling or exacerbating conflict drivers, and meet their obligations to prevent and mitigate negative human rights impacts, which is required by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and other standards.

Which women inspire you and why?

Generally, my main inspiration comes from the women around me: my family, friends, colleagues and grassroots campaigners. This includes inspirational mothers, campaigners who have given up their jobs to help protect refugees arriving in Europe, and those working in my hometown Edinburgh to address hidden poverty. I believe that these “smaller” battles, which barely make the news, can often have the most transformative positive impact on the daily lives of those who are disadvantaged and marginalised, especially as the national political climate in so many countries is so gloomy. Separately, it is appalling that in the 21st century women remain discriminated against, feel stigmatised or embarrassed due to the simple fact that they are female. The steps taken by women to push against such stigma is enormously important, such as the female MPs who have breastfed in parliament, and the women working in many countries to fight the taboos associated with periods.

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