Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: August 2014

Ban Ki-moon Receives Religious Freedom & Business Foundation Joint Publication with UNGC

29 Aug, 2014

IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Bali, Indonesia: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon received today “BUSINESS: A Powerful Force for Supporting Interfaith Understanding and Peace,” a new joint publication by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and the UN Global Compact Business for Peace platform.

The following are RFB Foundation President Brian Grim’s remarks made during today’s UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) side event organized by the Indonesia Global Compact Network (IGCN) where the publication was launched.

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Your Excellency, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and distinguished guests, we are thrilled for your participation in this UNAOC side event organized by the Indonesia Global Compact Network (IGCN), “The Role of Business in Promoting Inter-cultural and Interreligious Peace and Harmony.”

It’s my honor to give a brief summary of three themes we have explored today: Research, Action and Partnership.


Our discussion today is informed by Pew Research data presented at the past two UNAOC meetings in Doha and Vienna showing that the world has been swept by a rising tide of global restrictions on religious freedom or belief, which come from governments and perhaps, even more powerfully, from groups in societies. These data show that three-in-four people today live with high religious restrictions or hostilities.

Of course, the pressing question is: What can be done to roll back the tide? As a social scientist and NGO leader, it is clear to me that the answer lies in engaging the creativity and power of the global business community, because business is the crossroads of culture, commerce and creativity.

Indeed, recent research shows that freedom of religion or belief is not only a powerful instrument of peace, but also one of only a handful of factors that predicts economic growth. Data show that freedom of religion or belief is strongly associated with global competitiveness, including education, innovation, health and better lives for women and children.


So, how are businesses approaching interfaith understanding and peace? To answer this, the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and the Business for Peace platform are pleased to announce a new training resource: “BUSINESS: A Powerful Force for Supporting Interfaith Understanding and Peace.” I’ll highlight several of the approaches from the publication:

  • Business can Use Marketing Expertise to Bridge Borders: The Coca-Cola Small World campaign, including vending machines linking people in Pakistan and India by video, shows that getting along is good for society and good for business.
  • Business can Incentivize Innovation: The BMW Group’s intercultural innovation award in partnership with the UNAOC is an excellent example of incentivization as well as of a successful public-corporate partnership.
  • Business can Incubate and Catalyze Social Entrepreneurship: For instance, Petrobras in Brazil supports business incubation for Afro-Brazilians, helping members of marginalized communities engage in empowering entrepreneurship.
  • Business can Support Workforce Diversity: For instance, businesses in Indonesia are known for accommodating faith in the workplace. They are also known for addressing difficult unmet social needs, such as organizing a mass wedding for interfaith couples who had lived without legal status and with no ready means to become legitimately wed.


It is important to recognize that joint action – like that occurring in this side event – plants seeds that grow into fruit-bearing trees in the years to follow. For instance, the 3rd UNAOC meeting was held in Rio de Janeiro in 2010. I’m pleased to announce that together with partners in Brazil and Rio, we will hold the first global awards for business, interfaith understanding & peace during the 2016 Olympics. This is especially significant because Brazil is a country with an unprecedented story of peaceful religious change that can serve as a model for many conflict situations today. Indeed, in peacemaking, it is critical that countries with success stories like Brazil and Indonesia exercise global leadership in this area.

All of us look forward to working together to addresses these issues, and turning potential into practice. For instance, why don’t we put to practice a suggestion hinted at this morning by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and build a network of diaspora business leaders committed to the vision of a global future of innovative and sustainable economies where religious freedom and diversity are respected.

And finally, an episode in the life of the prophet Isaiah captures what I believe is the spirit of many, many business people willing to help realize this vision: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”

Thank you.

Pope Francis Annicchino

25 Aug, 2014


Pope Francis received Dr. Pasquale Annicchino at the Vatican at the start of a two-day conference, “International Religious Freedom and the Global Clash of Values.”

Pope Francis stressed a theme critical to the ethical functioning of the global business community: “Religious liberty is not only that of thought or private worship. It is freedom to live according to ethical principles consequent upon the truth found, be it privately or publicly. This is a great challenge in the globalized world, where weak thought — which is like a sickness — also lowers the general ethical level, and in the name of a false concept of tolerance ends up by persecuting those who defend the truth about man and the ethical consequences.”

The conference brought leading scholars, practicing lawyers, diplomats, and representatives of different faiths and of no faith to Rome on June 20-21, 2014. It was jointly sponsored by the Center for Law and Religion and the Center for International and Comparative Law at St. John’s Law and the Department of Law at the Libera Università Maria SS. Assunta (LUMSA), a private Catholic university in Rome.

Pasquale Annicchino

Last week Dr. Annicchino’s newest article, Is the European Union Going Deep on Democracy and Religious Freedom?, appeared in a special issue of The Review of Faith & International Affairs devoted to “Internationalization of International Religious Freedom Policy.” Recently, he has critiqued the Italian government for not doing enough to address religious freedom, including contributing to the special issues of Formiche (an Italian web magazine) on ISIS and religious freedom, with responses from the former Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the former President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.

Groundbreaking Publication – BUSINESS: A Powerful Force for Interfaith Understanding and Peace

21 Aug, 2014

*** UPDATE: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gives keynote address at the launch of this new, groundbreaking publication on Aug. 29, at UNAOC, Bali, Indonesia, during the event organized by the Indonesia Global Compact Network (IGCN) ***

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: USA and Indonesia – August 21, 2014: The UN Global Compact Business for Peace platform and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation announce a new resource to highlight how businesses can promote interfaith understanding and peace.

The resource – available here – will be introduced during the 2014 Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations ( UNAOC ) held in Bali, Indonesia, August 29-30. The approaches highlighted in the resource include:

  • Using Marketing Expertise to Bridge Borders: Companies can make positive contributions to peace in society by mobilizing advertising campaigns that bring people of various faiths and backgrounds together, as seen in Coke Serves Up Understanding Across Borders.
  • Incentivizing Innovation: Because cross-cultural dialogue and cooperation is an essential part of daily work for multinational companies, one company, the BMW Group, incentivizes other organizations to create innovative approaches to interfaith understanding through an award organized in collaboration with the UN Alliance of Civilizations. Organizations that have won this award include a tour company in the Middle East, which offers new paths to build bridges and bring cultures together, as seen in Promoting Understanding Through Tourism in the Holy Lands. Another recognized intercultural innovator uses job placements agencies to help contribute to the religious diversity of workforces, as seen in Helping Muslim Youth in the Philippines.
  • Incubating and Catalyzing Social Entrepreneurship: Business can also provide common ground where religious differences give way to shared concern and enterprise. Opportunity and Entrepreneurship in Nigeria describes an approach modeled by a peace-building organization showing how supporting companies and new entrepreneurs in conflict-affected areas can reduce extremism. Petrobras Supporting Business Incubation for Afro-Brazilians similarly shows how company support for new small enterprises can have a significant impact in developing marginalized communities.
  • Supporting Workforce Diversity: When businesses are sensitive to the religious and cultural issues around them, they can not only increase employee morale and productivity, but also address unmet difficult social needs, as shown in Indonesia Businesses Open Their Doors to Faith and Action.

Through this collaborative publication, the UN Global Compact’s Business for Peace platform and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation seek to raise awareness among business, Governments and other stakeholders of the ways in which business can and are contributing to interfaith understanding and peace.

“Given its role in building economies, mobilizing people around a shared purpose and pioneering cross-cultural management styles, business has an important stake in promoting intercultural and interreligious understanding. Successfully managing diversity and fostering tolerance and understanding – among employees, consumers and other stakeholders – is increasingly essential for long-term business success.”

— Georg Kell, Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact

“Business is at the crossroads of culture, commerce and creativity. This means businesses have the resources to make the world more peaceful as well as the incentive to do so. Indeed, as these case studies show, business is good for interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace.”

— Brian Grim, President, Religious Freedom and Business Foundation

Indeed, interfaith understanding – and its contribution to peace – is in the interest of business.

  • Recent research shows that economic growth and global competitiveness are stronger when social hostilities involving religion are low and Government respect for, and protection of, the universally recognized human right of freedom is high.
  • Interfaith understanding also strengthens business by reducing corruption and encouraging broader freedoms while also increasing trust and fostering respect. Research shows that laws and practices stifling religion are related to higher levels of corruption. Similarly, religious freedom highly correlates with the presence of other freedoms and a range of social and economic goods, such as better health care and higher incomes for women.
  • Positively engaging around the issue of interfaith understanding also helps business to advance trust and respect with consumers, employees and possible partner organizations, which can give companies a competitive advantage as sustainability and ethics come to the forefront of corporate engagement with society.
  • With the shared vision of a more sustainable and inclusive global economy that delivers lasting benefits to people, communities and markets, it is clear that companies can make significant contributions to advancing interfaith understanding and peace through both core business and outreach activities. The examples in this publication offer an important step forward in providing companies with guidance on why and how they can make practical contributions in this area – in ways benefitting both their business and the societies where they operate.

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Workplace Religious Discrimination Encountered by 1-in-3

11 Aug, 2014

36% of Americans — some 50 million people — report experiencing or witnessing workplace religious discrimination, according to a recent Tanenbaum survey, “What American Workers Really Think about Religion.”

Nearly half of non-Christian workers (49%) report experiencing or witnessing religious non-accomodation at work. White evangelical workers (48%) are equally as likely to report experiencing or witnessing religious non-accommodation at work. And two-in-five (40%) atheists also report experiencing or witnessing religious non-accomodation.

The survey notes that when it comes to addressing religion in the workplace, different religious groups have different needs for accommodation. For instance, a non-Christian may care more about the right to display a religious object or the right to pray during the day, while a Christian will be more concerned about attending service on Sunday. The survey found that the most commonly experienced or witnessed forms of religious non-accomadation are being required to work on Sabbath observances or religious holidays (24%) and attending company-sponsored events that did not include kosher, halal or vegetarian options (13%).

Less than half of all workers report that their companies have the following key policies related to religious diversity: 1) flexible work hours to permit religious observance or prayer (44%); 2) materials explaining the company’s policy on religious discrimination (42%); 3) a policy to allow employees to “swap holidays” (21%); and 4) programs to teach employees about religious diversity (14%).

The Tanenbaum survey found that 41% of workers at companies without clear processes for handling employee complaints – including religious discrimination complaints – say they are looking for a new job where they would be happier. This is nearly twice the rate as workers who say their companies do have clear processes (22%). Likewise, 32% of workers at companies without materials explaining the company’s policy on religious discrimination report that they are looking for a new job, significantly higher than workers at companies that offer these materials (25%).

Morale is higher in companies that provide flexible hours for religious observance. In such companies, 13% say that they do not look forward to coming to work, compared with 28% of workers at companies that do not provide this flexibility (13%) – more than a twofold difference.

Tanenbaum concluded from the survey that companies gain a competitive edge by adopting proactive policies of religious accommodation. Doing so makes good business sense, in that it increases employee morale and corporate reputation with regards to employee recruitment and retention.


  • The survey found that one-in-two U.S. workers have contact with people of different beliefs at work.
  • Half of non-Christians say that their employers are ignoring their religious needs.
  • More than half of American workers believe that there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims.
  • Nearly 6-in-10 atheists believe that people look down on their beliefs, as do nearly one-third of white evangelical Protestants and non-Christian religious workers.
  • Regardless of a company’s size, workers whose companies offer education programs about religious diversity and flexibility for religious practice report higher job satisfaction than workers in companies that do not offer such programs.


Tanenbaum’s 2013 Survey of American Workers and Religion was conducted by Public Religion Research LLC among a random sample of 2,024 American adults (age 18 and up) who are currently employed in a part-time or full-time position and who are part of GfK’s Knowledge Panel. Interviews were conducted online in both English and Spanish between March 19 and April 1, 2013. The margin of sampling error is +/- 2.8 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.

Tanenbaum is a secular, non-sectarian nonprofit that promotes mutual respect with practical programs that bridge religious difference and combat prejudice in schools, workplaces, health care settings and areas of armed conflict.

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Religious Market Theory of Peace Yields Interfaith Harmony and Economic Growth

4 Aug, 2014

“The Religious Market Theory of Peace” developed by Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and Penn State Professor Roger Finke, has led to a new and novel means to create harmony while promoting economic growth, finds Valentina Gasbarri.

Gasbarri goes through the seven reasonsfor why religion freedom and business are good for each other. For instance, religious freedom reduces corruption, a key impediment to sustainable economic development. And, research shows that religious freedom engenders peace by reducing religion-related violence and conflict, which inhibits economic growth.

Gasbarri, looking at data from Pew Research and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, observed that there is increasing recognition that faith and religious freedom play a vital role in promoting peaceful and harmonious relationships between nations. She notes that while international organizations such as the United Nations have long recognized the principle of religious freedom, there have been few quantitative contributions that review the positive impact of faith and religion to social and economic well being.

Indeed, religious freedom is one of only three factors significantly associated with global economic growth, according to a new study by researchers at Georgetown University and Brigham Young University. The study looked at GDP growth for 173 countries in 2011 and controlled for two-dozen different financial, social, and regulatory influences.

Gasbarri cites a study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, published in January 2014, showing that 5.3 billion people – nearly 76 percent of the world’s population – live under high or very high restrictions on the freedom of religion and beliefs. These restrictions come from both the private sector and from government policies and religious restrictions reached a six-year peak in 2012.

Given this global peak in restrictions on religion and the accompanying social and economic harm, Gasbarri writes that “The Religious Market Theory” is a viable solution with a clear plan.

Valentina Gasbarri is a Junior Expert of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).