Letter to Senior Executives: Game changers in religious freedom
Businesses are uniquely situated to solve problems caused by religious restrictions and hostilities because they are at the crossroads of culture, commerce and creativity. Indeed, they have a vested interest because religious freedom is good for business. Research shows that religious freedom not only benefits the bottom line, but also improves the lives of women, consolidates democracy, and increases peace and stability.
The Problem: A rising tide of religious restrictions and hostilities has swept the globe in the past decade, despite efforts by governments, religious groups and non-governmental organizations to roll them back.
Today, more 75% of people live with high religious restrictions (see Brian Grim’s TEDx Talk at the Vatican). These religious restrictions and hostilities adversely impact businesses in every region of the globe. Religion-related hostilities in the Middle East, South Asia, Russia and China disrupt markets and production. Religious prejudices stigmatize women and keep them out of the marketplace in counties as diverse as Turkey and France. And fears of offending religious or cultural norms – including secular norms – impede innovation and stifle entrepreneurial spirit in the West and the rest of the world.
The Solution: Business is a powerful force supporting interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace. Evidence shows that business support for religious freedom will result in more peaceful, trustworthy and stable economies. Where there is stability, there is more opportunity to invest, especially in emerging/new markets. And where there is freedom of conscience in the market place – including the freedom to live out the Golden Rule and bring belief systems to the proverbial table – this promotes honoring the sanctity of the contract. It also fosters more trust within a company and enlarges public trust toward a company, enhancing its brand image and benefiting the bottom line.
How can business executives make a game-changing difference?
Participate in one of the four the game-changing global initiatives of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation:
- The Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards – The United Nations Global Compact and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation are working together on a new project – the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards that are to be presented in the host city of each summer and winter Olympics, beginning with Rio in 2016. The objective is to honor, publicize and highlight business leaders that have demonstrated significant advances and innovations in interfaith understanding and peace in the workplace and community, thereby fostering increased interreligious and intercultural understanding, freedom of religion or belief, and peace.
- The Empowerment+ Initiative – This project expands religious freedom by facilitating integration and empowerment, which helps those experiencing a wide range of socio-economic risks including displacement, unemployment, isolation, crime, addiction and radical narratives. It does this through mentoring relationships, integrative business & self-reliance. This pilot initiative will field interfaith teams that (1) reach out to and mentor vulnerable individuals, imparting empowering skills and networks by using an an empowerment+ toolkit to be used in groups, plus (2) catalyze sustainable businesses that increase integration and resiliency of non-integrated communities where extremism can grows (see rationale). Because the initiative will be staffed by volunteers from groups in civil society, it will be low cost but have high impact because it has the potential to equip many of thousands of volunteers to build relationships with many more thousands of people at risk.
- Corporate Support of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) – The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation has produced templates and sample language that businesses can use to ensure that freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is respected by the company in its external and internal dealings. The sample corporate documents include: Corporate Charter Language, Employee Policy, External Policy, Corporate Pledge, Best Practices, and Sample Corporate Resolution.
- Supporting Religious Economy Research – The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation studies freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) and its impact on society, business and the economy. These studies and their findings are made available through various research articles and publications as well as in blogs and op-eds.
These initiatives facilitate business engagement with governments and civil society to roll back the rising tide religious restrictions and hostilities AND positively impact a business’s bottom line.
To discuss how you can make a local or global game-changing difference, send an email to Brian J. Grim, Ph.D., RFBF President firstname.lastname@example.org.