25 business leaders call to build back better business in the Global South

Business for Peace Foundation
4 min readAug 3, 2020
Credit: Leyla Avsar

In an open letter issued 30 June, 25 Oslo Business for Peace Award winners from 23 countries called to build back better business in the Global South in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With significant capital outflows, export barriers rising, and unemployment increasing, COVID-19 is widening the social and economic gap in the Global South.

“Business across borders will save lives and livelihoods. The economy will not reopen until we break down the trade barriers,” said Paul Polman, Co-Founder of Imagine and Honorary Chair of the International Chamber of Commerce.

“The economy will not reopen until we break down the trade barriers.”

Polman, Sir Richard Branson, and Durreen Shahnaz, Founder of Impact Investment Exchange are among the 25 business leaders and signatories of the call to action working to address these challenges. The signatories have also earlier received the Oslo Business for Peace Award for their businessworthy accomplishments. The award is given by a committee of Nobel Laureates in peace and economics to business leaders who ethically and responsibly solve societal problems that create value both for business and society.

The signatories urgently call for:

1. Immediate debt cancellation and increased investment linked to a green and socially equitable recovery.

2. Increased global co-ordination, especially avoiding export barriers on personal protective equipment and maintaining fair and efficient markets for both the Global North and the South.

3. Investment in and support for SMEs, ensuring employment especially for underserved communities.

4. Global co-ordination on strategies for financial investment and income transfer to strengthen the participation of women in the economy and the job market.

5. Increased attention to racial harmony, integration and inclusion.

By some estimates, the consequences of the pandemic are that 265 million people will suffer acute food shortages, 0.5 billion people may be pushed back into poverty and women are disproportionately negatively affected.

“COVID is not the great equalizer, but businesses can drive the necessary transformations to advance the global agenda for gender equal, inclusive and equitable markets.”

“More importantly, we can empower women and people of color across the Global South to become solutions for a COVID-resilient recovery,” Shahnaz said.

“As we rebuild a world in the wake of COVID-19, let’s look to the real business leaders who stand out as role models to society and their peers, are earning the trust of their stakeholders, advocate for businessworthy leadership, and are contributing to reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These very diverse Business for Peace Honourees, ranging from young health-tech entrepreneurs to CEOs of multinationals and Nobel Peace Prize winners are such real leaders. This call to action is for business leaders who want to make actual change. Now is the moment to reshape the world in a way that creates value for all,” concludes Per Saxegaard, founder of the Business for Peace Foundation.

“This call to action is for business leaders who want to make actual change.”

The call to action has been signed by:

Selima Ahmad, Founder of the Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Bangladesh)

Dr. Agbor Ashu, Co-founder and Medical Director, GiftedMom (Cameroon)

Dr Nadia al-Sakkaf, Former Minister of Information in Yemen (Yemen)

Lori Blaker, Retired CEO of TTi Global (USA)

Sarah Beydoun, Founder and Creative Director of Sarah’s Bag (Lebanon)

Ouided Bouchamaoui, President of The Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (Tunisia)

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group (UK)

Juan Andrés Cano, Founder of PeaceStartup (Colombia)

Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Co-Owner and Former Chairman and CEO of Carlson (USA)

Dean Cycon, Founder and CEO of Dean’s Beans (USA)

Merrill Fernando, Founder of Dilmah Tea (Sri Lanka)

Margaret Mussoi L. Groff, Former CFO of ITAIPU (Brazil)

Connie Hasemann, Founder and Former CEO of All Ears AS (Denmark)

Mo Ibrahim, Founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation (Sudan)

Zahi Khouri, Founder of the Palestinian National Beverage Company (Palestine)

Vladas Lasas, Founder and CEO of UPS Lithuania (Lithuania)

Alice Laugher, CEO of CTG (Committed to Good) (UAE)

Tore Lærdal, Chairman and CEO of Laerdal Medical (Norway)

Sir Martin Naughton, Founder of GlenDimplex (Ireland)

Paul Polman, Co-Founder of Imagine and Honorary Chair of the International Chamber of Commerce (Netherlands)

Dr Jennifer Riria, CEO of Kenya Women Holding (Kenya)

William Rosenzweig, Managing Director of Physic Ventures (USA)

Dr Harley Seyedin, Chair of American Chamber of Commerce South China (China)

Durreen Shahnaz, Founder of Impact Investment Exchange (Singapore)

Venkataramani Srivathsan, Managing Director and CEO, African and Middle East, of Olam (Nigeria)

For more information on the Call to Action, including a resource guide, click here.

Or watch the exclusive interview with Paul Polman and Durreen Shahnaz.

A special thanks to Leidar.



Business for Peace Foundation

Business has to be about the greater good and not only about maximising shareholder profits. We’re here to encourage and inspire #businessworthy behaviour.