An upcoming publication highlights the difficulty for business to operate responsibly in complex and crisis-conflict contexts
"Business responsibilities in times of war and peace: the case of Heineken in Central Africa", 24 March 20174
In times of war and conflict, businesses that remain present place all efforts in staying safe and remaining neutral. Staying away from politics is however not always that easy. The upcoming publication Business responsibilities in times of war and peace: the case of Heineken in Central Africa by François Lenfant and Katinka C. van Cranenburgh in the Journal of Business, Peace and Sustainable Development illustrates the dilemmas that Heineken faced in three Central African countries. Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC have a recent violent history of conflict and weak governance. Heineken however continued to brew and sell its local beers during times of war and conflict and thereby provided communities a beacon of trust as many other institutions were falling apart or changing establishments. Whilst it can be argued that Heineken, by deliberately choosing to stay in operations, made de facto a political decision, Heineken till recently refused to acknowledge or even discuss this ‘political’ role... Lenfant & Van Cranenburgh...show the difficulty of navigating subtly between not taking side in the conflict, continuing business and acting responsibly in a context of violence, human rights abuses and conflict. In crisis times, Heineken did undertake some steps to pursue resolution of disputes through dialogue and other peaceful means, as was the case in Burundi. There, Heineken supported mediation activities between warring parties and therefore intervened in the public sphere...A former high level manager indicated in an interview with one of the authors that "Heineken originally did not want to play this facilitating role but gradually got involved in it. In any event, it is always good to talk to people, government, or even opposition or what they called rebel groups. Although it was not our choice, once we were involved, we had to find a pacific solution to the conflict".