Human Responsibility in “Business for Peace”

Clouds and Silver Linings
by Nadia Gianoli

Edith Sizoo on "Business Leadership, Rights and Responsibilities" at the International SPES Conference, earlier this year, based on the idea of responsibility as the foundation of human relationships.

The International SPES conference took place earlier this year in Ypres, Belgium on April 10-12, 2014, commemorating the centennial of the first World War (1914-1918)

Edith Sizoo spoke during the “Business leadership, Rights and Responsibilities” session that was chaired by Henk Opdebeeck.

In order to clarify the role of business enterprises in bringing about a “peace-minded global and local economy”, Sizoo started by looking at the definition of peace, saying that it means more than “no war” but also a social pact in which business is one of the partners of the social contract “in favouring a peace-minded sustainable economy”. Business is closely interconnected with government policies as well as with the demands and needs of citizens. The question therefore is to what extent the three have an impact on each other and what can be expected of actors in each of these three sectors of society in terms of sharing responsibility for a sustainable society.

Sizoo went deeper into the role of these three levels of actors, their constraints, dilemmas and choices, based on the idea of responsibility as the foundation of human relationships.

“Renewed thinking on the idea of responsibility as the foundation of human relationships and of the relation of humans with nature, is essential to face the current worldwide crises. While all people have an equal entitlement to rights, their responsibilities are proportionate to the possibilities open to them: freedom, access to knowledge, wealth and power, all increase the capacity for exercising responsibilities and the duty to account for them. The practice of responsibility as a two-fold commitment of assuming charges and accounting for one’s actions is affected by ethical erosion, fragmentation, controversy, rugged individualism and rapid structural changes at the global level and within societies partly due to unprecedented progress of the sciences and technologies. Moral appeals, codes of conduct, declarations and manifestos, unbinding self-regulation in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility are insufficient to counteract structured “de-responsibilisation” and irresponsible unsanctioned behaviour that undermine the solution of the current crises. A new international reference text on human responsibility, as a complement to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, setting out the basic principles of the idea of responsibility, and serving as a basis for international jurisdiction, must be a priority on the international agenda.”

You can read the full speech in the attached document below.

The conference also resulted in the presentation of a Manifesto that has responsibility at his heart, with the following main points:

1. We acknowledge that today’s business leaders are in a unique position to influence what happens in society for years to come. With this power comes monumental responsibility. They can choose to ignore this responsibility, and thereby exacerbate problems such as economic inequality, environmental degradation and social deprivation, though this will compromise their ability to do business in the long run. Good business needs a peaceful and just world in which to operate and prosper. And conversely: peace thrives in a healthy economic environment.

2. […]Peace-building demands an ethic of responsibility for the whole of humanity and all of creation.

3. […] Peace […] is a spiritual method to overcome blocked oppositions of values and interests.

4. […] a new type of leadership […] based on the quality of human relations, the search for meaning in work and the integration of particular interests into a common good perspective.

5. […] a sustainable model of peace-based economic development.

6. […] ‘human spirits’ that cultivate a deep sense of co-responsibility and co- creativity.

Read, share and sign the Ypres Manifesto on Business for Peace

For those who want to organize an international workshop on peace-issues in the years to come, the network Business for Peace could be helpful in mobilizing people and offering inspiring ideas. Visit www.businessforpeace.befor more information.

The next annual SPES Conference will be hosted by Prof. Sharda Nandam at the Nyenrode Business Universiteit (The Netherlands) on July 3-5, 2015. The Conference will focus on the concept of simplicity and how simplicity helps managers to navigate the VUCA World of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.

Read the Call for Papers, “Applying Simplicity to Management”.

PDF - 176.2 kb
Speech Edith Sizoo Business for Peace Yper 2014
Published on: 26 August 2014
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