In my view: Business, sport and projects for peace


By Matthew Glendinning. Editor, Together Magazine.

The event attracted hundreds of delegates from every part of the world. Their common purpose – to find ways in which the power of sport can be used to promote peace through effective projects.
Among the key issues under discussion was the role and responsibility of businesses in this process. 
While there is growing awareness of the role which corporations can play in creating the sort of positive social change which plays a role in achieving social stability and peace, we must understand that we are at the beginning of a journey and there is a long way still to travel before this understanding is universal and all businesses embrace the concept of social responsibility and push it to the top of their agendas. One has to be realistic and understand that the harsh demands of competitive commerce and the expectations of shareholders can, from time to time, overshadow a desire to contribute to society more widely.
There is no one size fits all answer here. Some corporations have funds and foundations which enable them to support projects which have no obvious connection to their commercial activities while others become enthusiastically involved in schemes which are closer to their target audiences
The key to enhancing this complex relationship is knowledge and understanding of the links between social responsibility and commercial performance. For example, great brands are universal and recognize few if any divides.  Great brands enjoy respect and access and a universality they share with sport.  Our task is to harness the power of these brands to that of sport to engage individuals and communities to create understanding and change attitudes.
The world is changing and the expectations of consumers are changing Increasingly they want to choose brands which are seen to be making a contribution to society, whether that is through the environment  or the creation of peace and social stability by creating opportunities for the disenfranchised and creating better understanding and tolerance among warring groups and individuals.
We may be some years from the end game but experts believe that purchase decisions will ultimately be made not simply on traditional brand attributes of consistency, quality and price but on the basis of its social credentials as well. Once social considerations become as much as part of the competitive process as packaging and price, it will be in the commercial interests of every brand and its owners to engage fully.  In this way, commercial imperatives will have a positive social impact and those who move first will have a commercial advantage.
Sport has a unique place in the lives of individuals and communities around the world.  Sports is about striving and challenging in the pursuit of success but it is also about understanding, respect and working together. The challenge facing sport is to educate the global brand community that it is in its own interests as well as those of communities and counties throughout the world, to join forces with sport and use this unique combined access and influence to create a dynamo for social change sustainable peace.

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