Pillar of Peace: Sound Business Environment

This important pillar examines the strength of national and local economies as indicators of positive peace. What are the economic conditions that exist in a particular country or region? What are the regulatory systems and do they foster fairness and open competition for commerce? The strength of these economic conditions determines the “soundness” of the business environment. The IEP Global Peace Index shows that countries who offer institutional support and free flexibility for the business sector consistently rank as peaceful.

Business Ethics Breed Sound Business

One of the ways Rotary creates and strengthens a sound business environment in countries around the world, is by providing an original Four-Way Test “of the things we think, say or do.” The Four-Way Test is a service principle for clubs throughout Rotary International, but it was developed by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor during the Great Depression as a guide for ethical business practices.

Ethical business practices are at the very foundation of this IEP Pillar of Peace: A Sound Business Environment. Countries that foster economic policies built on bedrocks of ethical business standards enjoy higher degrees of positive peace, according to the IEP. Fundamental fairness, especially in business, allows a free flow of commerce where all may participate on a level playing field. An equitable business environment opens doors of opportunities for everyone. Rotarians set the highest benchmarks that foster economic fairness and open competition.

One great example of raising the bar is The 15th Annual Oregon Ethics in Business Awards, held May 23, 2018. Each year, The Rotary Club of Portland honors Oregon businesses and individuals who uphold the strongest standards of business ethics. This public event is co-sponsored with KGW Media Group, the Rotarian Action Group For Peace, and dozens of businesses throughout the state. Businesses large and small, leaders, and non-profits are nominated and awarded for demonstrating “ethical business practice in its broadest interpretation: in the workplace, the marketplace, the environment and the community.”

Nominees are chosen by a panel of local CEOs and business leaders. The award-winners are honored by their peers, state leaders and Rotarians, at an event in downtown Portland that draws hundreds of attendees every year.

Rotarians (through donations to Oregon Ethics in Business) also provide multiple scholarships to future business leaders, who will someday exemplify and sustain a strong business environment. These Rotarians are “dedicated to maintaining high standards of ethical conduct in businesses and non-profit organizations especially through contact with the generation now preparing to take their positions in the workplace. We value the opportunity to honor our future business leaders!”

Rotary Clubs Invest in Future Business Leaders

Rotary International began its partnership with the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) in 2017. Yet, as one of the world’s top philanthropic organizations it is led by business and civic leaders who practice “service above self” in their communities. In this regard, it is no wonder RI has strengthened the IEP’s Sound Business Environment Pillar of Positive Peace since its founding by Paul Harris in 1905. This tradition continues in 2018, as Rotary clubs partner with major universities and other institutions of higher learning to offer cutting-edge business mentoring programs that not only help young people achieve their entrepreneurial dreams, but support the foundations of careers, jobs, and economic development. This is the full spirit of the IEP’s positive peace framework, as shared prosperity can eliminate the underlying causes of many conflicts.

The Rotary Club of St. Joseph & Benton Harbor founded a student mentoring program in 2007 that became a national model for fostering future business and artisan professionals. “You’d be amazed,” says Rick Villa, the son of Mexican migrant workers and Rotarian who ran the SJBHRotary mentoring program in 2012-13. “Ninety-nine times out of 100 (mentors) will give a student a card and say, ‘When you start college and have questions about what classes to take, I will help.’ That’s pretty awesome to be able to contact a doctor or attorney or engineer and get that kind of advice.”

The mentoring program not only bolstered the once thriving manufacturing cities of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor, Michigan where it was founded, but spawned similar programs by Rotary clubs around the world. Read the story.

The Champaign Rotary Club formed mentoring partnership with the Department of Finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Seattle 4 Rotary Club began its business mentoring partnership with the University of Washington in 1997.

Whirlpool CEO and Rotary Student Program Mentor, Jeff Fettig, with Rotary Student Program recipient David Reimers and his father, Rotarian Randy Reimers. Photo courtesy of the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor.

There are many other business mentoring programs conducted by Rotary clubs and districts worldwide, and represent only a fraction of the ways Rotarians “give back” to their communities by offering their time and knowledge to young people. Most importantly, as said by current RI President Ian Riseley, “All of the humanitarian efforts of Rotary International relate to peacebuilding.”