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Business Responsibilities in Times of War and Peace: The Case of Heineken in Central Africa

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In recent years, corporate social responsibility (CSR) of multinational corporations (MNCs) in developing countries has received a great deal of academic attention. However, the literature has focussed on large and mostly stable emerging countries such as Mexico, Brazil, China or India. The few studies concerning Africa typically cover South Africa or Nigeria and concentrate on the extractive industries, such as oil and mining. Central African countries and non-mining companies have not been the object of much academic scrutiny. This paper looks specifically at one major MNC operating in the beverage industry in three (post) conflict countries in Central Africa, namely Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and analyses the company's reactions to the conflicts as well as the extent to which the conflict context influenced the company's management and operations. Drawing from extensive interviews with Heineken high executives, and secondary documentation provided by Heineken, this paper offers detailed insights into the perceived and practised social responsibilities a major private economic actor encounters while operating in a conflict region. Based on the peace through commerce existing frameworks, we provide empirical evidence which reveals that economic and social opportunities are widely exploited. By continuing business in war times, creating linkages in the value chain, and offering healthcare to employees, family members and communities, as well as facilitating dialogue between warring parties, Heineken creates conditions for peace to thrive and contributes to consolidating the countries' stability. Our study also extends the scope of MNCs' responsibilities by showing the challenges MNCs operating in conflict areas face in maintaining an official policy of strict neutrality while being de facto involved in public matters.
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Keywords: Africa; Business forpeace; CSR; Conflict; Heineken; Multinational corporation; Peace

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 December 2017

More about this publication?

  • Business, Peace and Sustainable Development (BPSD) aims at understanding the role of the business sector in enhancing peace and reducing violence, and contributing to sustainable development. On the other hand, it is also aimed at understanding the importance of peace to the economy and markets. While some research has been published on business and peace and peace through commerce, BPSD is the first journal dedicated to mutual contribution of business and peace.

    Peace is the absence of violence, but it also incorporates social justice, human rights, stability and sustainable development. Peace is essential to address the global challenges facing humanity today. Without peace we will be unable to achieve the levels of cooperation, inclusiveness and social equity necessary to solve problems such as climate change, global poverty and the health crisis. It is acknowledged that most businesses and industries need a peaceful market to operate and assure a smooth supply chain. As such, the relationship between business and peace is an on-going and mutual one, and needs to be further developed and investigated.

    Corporate Peace is defined as the incorporation of peace and reduction of violence into a company's strategy, decision-making and the value chain in order to raise awareness to peace, support and enhance it. Corporate Peace is an umbrella concept that contains business, social and strategic dimensions.
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