What role does business play in peace-building and conflict reduction? This is the introduction (article) to a special issue that tackles this complex question, exploring varied business efforts to bring peace through six rigorous qualitative cases in Myanmar, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Somaliland, Brazil, Guatemala and El Salvador. Three main findings cut across this issue. First, local context is paramount to success; there is no one universal formula that a regulator, business or peace practitioner aiming to advance a business agenda for peace can employ for operational success. Second, rather than compartmentalising ‘peace’ into projects that often carry ‘win-lose’ consequences for local communities, business-peace projects must first understand who they are empowering so that they do not unwittingly make the conflict worse. Third, investment and access are deeply intertwined in fragile and conflict-affected areas, and business-peace projects that simply try to improve business access typically exacerbate inequalities favouring elite actors. We close with a discussion on how to take the business and peace-building agenda forward with scholarship and policy, stressing that business-peace projects must be assessed at the societal and not project level if their impact is to be truly beneficial for a political economy of peaceful development.