Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: June 2015

Historic Agreement with UN for Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards

25 Jun, 2015

Business & Interfaith Peace AwardsNew York – UN Headquarters: The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, together with its Brazilian Affiliate, signed this week an historic agreement with the United Nations Global Compact’s Business for Peace platform to be co-partners for the global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards to be held biannually in the host cities of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games beginning in Rio de Janeiro in September 2016 during the time period of the Paralympic Games.*

The partners intend to carry forth the biennial awards in the host cities of future Olympic and Paralympic Games, including in PyeongChang, South Korea (2018), and Tokyo, Japan (2020).

Overview of the Business & Interfaith Peace Awards

The Business & Interfaith Peace Awards is a high-profile global initiative that will honor, publicize and highlight business leaders who 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.

There will be Gold, Silver and Bronze prizes for leaders of businesses in four categories:

  • – Multinational corporations
  • – National companies
  • – Young, entrepreneurial companies
  • – Companies led by women

B4P-RFBF-signingNominees for the Business & Interfaith Peace Awards will come through the Business for Peace network as well as other similar networks. The nominees will be judged by an independent panel of six experts chosen from three separate fields such as corporate social responsibility, freedom of religion or belief, and peace studies (jointly approved by RFBF/ARLN & UNGC/B4P). The committee will be convened by the president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and the president of its Brazilian affiliate, the Associação pela Liberdade Religiosa e Negócios, and a representative of UNGC/B4P.

The agreement was signed on 23rd day of June 2015 at United Nations Headquarters in New York City by Melissa Powell, Head, Business for Peace, UNGC, Brian J. Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, Ricardo Leite, President of the Associação pela Liberdade Religiosa e Negócios (pictured).

Overall Aims of the Partnership

  • Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, focusing on engagement with businesses to promote interfaith understanding and peace
  • Expand and deepen private sector action in support of interfaith understanding and peace in the workplace, marketplace and local communities
  • Help businesses play a central role in sustaining the openness – including interfaith understanding – on which development and prosperity depend
  • Advance the implementation of the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact in challenging operating environments and catalyze collaborative action to advance interfaith understanding and peace
  • Through business, unite people under a common objective to come together to advance business goals that include building peace by breaking down barriers between communities, religions and regions

Strategic Outcomes

  • Greater awareness among companies of how they can implement the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact in high-risk and conflict affected areas, focusing on engagement with businesses to promote interfaith understanding and peace
  • Greater transparency and disclosure in company contributions to interfaith understanding and peace
  • Create a network of businesses and catalyze corporate action and partnerships to support interfaith understanding and peace in the workplace, marketplace, and in local communities
  • Enhanced local ownership of B4P through local priorities – learning, dialogue, partnerships – by having a local business in Brazil take the lead on this “Made in Brazil” global initiative
  • Increased advocacy and outreach to businesses on interfaith understanding and peace
  • Increased capacity, knowledge and thought leadership for businesses on interfaith understanding and peace

Ban-ki-moon-publicationThe Strategic Need 

According to the Pew Research Center, approximately three-in-four people today (73%) live in countries with high levels of social hostilities involving religion. But, 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 of religion or belief 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, freedom of religion or belief 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 the joint Global Compact Network Indonesia-RFBF-UNGC publication, “Business: A Powerful Force for Supporting Interfaith Understanding and Peace,” 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.


The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and its Brazilian affiliated Association (the “Foundation”) will assume the role and responsibility of orchestrating the logistics of this initiative, including the recruitment of corporate donors and funding.

* The Business & Interfaith Peace Awards are not affiliated with the Olympic or Paralympic Games.

The Sunshine Approach: Running a Business with a Social Mission

16 Jun, 2015


Case study*

There is something delightfully different about Sunshine Nut Cashews — the story behind the nuts. As Founder & CEO, Don Larson says, “The Sunshine Approach™ is founded on the basis that companies can have profound positive impact on people’s lives.”

These cashews are transforming lives in Mozambique through bringing opportunity, dignity, and fairness to everyone beginning with the grower. The roasting facility in Mozambique allows them to deliver the freshest product while training and employing adult orphans.

Sunshine Nut profits are re-invested in Mozambican communities with a total of 90% of proceeds going to transformative initiatives. Of their proceeds, 30% goes to supporting farming communities through ‘hand-up’ assistance, 30% to caring for orphans and vulnerable children, and 30% to creating new food companies. Don and his team believe the Sunshine Approach™ Philosophy has the potential to do great things.

Don Larson tells the story in a new TEDx Talk. He says, “Find an idea that you’re willing to die for…and then start to really live.” After selling his possessions and moving to Mozambique to open a cashew company with a strong social mission, Don almost lost his life. The event galvanized him to be even more resolute in building a company that helps transform the lives of his workers and those in his community.

The Start

Sunnshine nuts-3Sunshine Nut Company was founded in 2011 in Matola, Mozambique, where Don purchased a small existing factory. Over the next several months they renovated the factory and installed new roasting equipment.

In the fall of 2013, they held a job fair at one of the local children’s center and hired our first production team. Many of the Sunshine Nut team members are adult orphans that grew up at the children’s center. In February of 2014, after several years of preparation, they delivered their first ever batch of cashews to South Africa’s Pick ‘n’ Pay stores.

In September 2014 Sunshine Nuts launched in the U.S. at Giant, Stop&Shop, and Martins. In December of 2014 they launched in Whole Foods in the Northeast, South, Midwest, South Pacific, and Rocky Mountain regions. Today, they are actively expanding, “spreading Sunshine all across our beautiful planet,” as they say.

Why Mozambique?

At the time of independence in 1975, Mozambique was the leading cashew producing country. Cashew processing was a major industry and an employer for many. Independence was followed by sixteen years of violent civil war in which over one million lives were lost. To make matters worse, orchards were ravaged by rampant disease causing the industry to collapse, leaving thousands destitute.

Mozambique is ready to regain the status it once had. Sunshine Nut Company believes in Mozambique and is playing an active part in reestablishing the industry.

Founder & CEO Don Larson Traces Roots Back to Hershey

My first trip to Africa happened in 2004. I was then director of Cocoa Operations for The Hershey Company and one of the world’s largest buyers of cocoa. Our trip focus was to survey the African bush of Ghana for cocoa purchasing potential.

As we sat in the airport lounge waiting for our flight home, a conversation which had started with a group of college graduates turned uncomfortable when they discovered that I was one of the largest cocoa buyers in the world. Looks of warmth and welcoming turned to looks of disgust as they remarked the people that were in poverty because of the prices Hershey was paying for the cocoa.

Wait a minute…we were buying all that cocoa from these poor farmers. Our company was providing income for millions of families. I thought I was part of the solution, not the problem.

This trip and conversation kept me unsettled because I believed we could create a better business model to eradicate poverty. It was not long before the idea was planted into my head to “build food factories in developing nations to bring lasting economic transformation”.

At first I did not want to do it – certainly not Africa, and definitely not food processing. From 2005 to 2007, I built a cocoa processing plant for a group of private investors. It was a draining experience that left me determined to never work in the food industry again.

Somehow all of these seemingly big details did not matter – this was my calling and purpose.

In 2011 our family left our lifestyle of abundance and material wealth for one of purpose. We sold nearly everything we owned, our big house with a swimming pool, luxury cars, a hot air balloon, and moved to Africa. My wife Terri and our youngest son moved with us as we relocated away from our daughter in college and son in his last year of high school. I could not be more grateful to the support and sacrifice of my family. They have shared in the mission and been incredible companions on our remarkable journey.

The Sunshine Approach™ is founded on the basis that companies can have profound positive impact on people’s lives. While at The Hershey Company, I was inspired by the company’s commitment to caring for orphans. Milton Hershey opened a school for orphaned boys in 1909 and upon his passing in 1945 left his fortune to the school. The school has transitioned many children into a successful life, including my father-in-law who graduated 1955.

It is our objective to demonstrate a model that will successfully transform poor farming communities in a way that provides fairness, opportunity, and empowerment from within. We strive to bring people together around a vision that truly transforms communities.

The success of our company and the impact we create is all thanks to you! We appreciate the support of our fans and for believing that providing hope has never tasted so good! – Don Larson

* This and other case studies by the Religious Freedom & Business  Foundation do not imply an endorsement of any company profiled. The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation has no tie to any of the companies studied.

RFBF President Speaks at Conference Countering Radicalization at East London University

8 Jun, 2015

RFBF president, Brian Grim, shared the platform with several ambassadors from West African countries facing a terror threat from Boko Haram militants at a conference at the University Square Stratford (USS), of University of East London.

Grim spoke about the foundation’s planned initiative to counter radicalization, Empowerment+, which will use integration and empowerment to help those at risk of radicalisation to follow a different course.

The ambassadors and Grim were joined by other dignitaries, guests and members of the security industry to explore solutions to radicalisation and address concerns raised by African community leaders and parents who are worried about the increasing number of youngsters being influenced by the ideology of Boko Haram and ISIS.

The conference, “Radicalisation – The African Heritage Connection”, was organised by UEL alumnus David Otto, who works in counter-terrorism, intelligence and security.

As UEL is in the heart of an area known for its diversity, Otto felt that UEL was the perfect venue to analyse and address the issue of terrorism.

“Our work in Africa and Europe has led us to question the extent to which current policy understands this African connection,” said Mr Otto. “In terms of looking at preventing radicalisation not only within the African heritage communities but in all communities in the United Kingdom, east London is actually placed at the foundation of our diverse UK community and in a good position to tackle the issues.”

The conference aimed to increase understanding and develop pro-active solutions to this African connection, building from and challenging existing deradicalisation and disengagement policy and practice.

UEL will continue to play a crucial role in spreading awareness and facilitating these solutions to the terrorism crisis. Otto confirmed that the conference was just the beginning of a process where the security industry and other role players could work with UEL to make sure that the African heritage communities and the Black Minority Ethnic communities get a solid foundation in the means against fighting radicalisation in the UK and abroad.

“We’ve become concerned at the neglect of communities of African heritage and recognise the real danger of waiting until this connection comes into focus.”

Otto believes that students can help each other and their communities by being aware of violent extremism.

“When you look at violent extremism, you have to look at the source. Most of the students who come to the university are particularly vulnerable because they sometimes stay at the university for four years without having any parental control or guidance.”

Andrew Silke, Director of Terrorism Studies at UEL, believes that focusing on Nigeria, Boko Haram and extremism in Africa is very topical, not only internationally but for UEL too.

“In terms of our teaching and our research we’ve had a long interest in terrorism and extremism,” said Professor Silke. “With a lot of our students coming from Nigeria there has been a strong interest in the rise of Boko Haram, much more so than you might find in other institutions.”

Other speakers included the Cameroonian High Commissioner H.E NKwelle Ekaney, Dr Leroy Logan MBE, Janet Hills, Metropolitan Black Police Association Chair, and Boko Haram peace negotiator Aisha Wakil.

Religious Violence is Bad for Business – A Case India’s Modi Might Make in Bangladesh

4 Jun, 2015

Violence to Hindus in Bangladesh Includes Destruction of Businesses


As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins a trip to neighboring Bangladesh on June 6, the RSS, a Hindu nationalist organization, is urging Modi to raise concern over the safety of Hindus living in the Muslim-majority neighbor. While the major focus of Modi’s trip will be on collaborative enhancement of boosting economic engagement and expanding security cooperation, the concern for interfaith understanding and peace has some business implications.

Interfaith understanding and religious freedom are closely connected with peace and sustainable prosperity, according to research. Conversely, religious intolerance is associated with violence and the destruction of businesses, as documented in a new European human rights report.

The European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance (EP Intergroup on FoRB & RT) presented its first Annual Report on the ‘State of Freedom of Religion or Belief.’ Below is the section on Bangladesh, which shows the impact of intolerance on the minority Hindu population of the country, including the destruction of businesses.

This marks a second year running where approximately 200 Hindu businesses in Bangladesh were destroyed in acts of religion-related violence. In 2013, 208 Hindu businesses were destroyed or set on fire (see chart above), and a similar number met the same fate in 2014.

“Although Bangladesh is officially a secular state, it considers Islam to be the state religion. Approximately 90 percent of its population are Muslim, 9 percent Hindu and the most of remainder Christians and Buddhists. There are no laws against conversion. However, Muslims seeking to convert may be facing notaries who refuse to register their document (ANC report, p. 2). Under the penal code, any person who has a ‘deliberate’ or ‘malicious’ intention of ‘hurting religious sentiments’ is liable to fines or up to two-years’ imprisonment.”

“Targeting of religious minorities is hardly uncommon, with Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Ahmadiyyas coming under attack in recent years. While such violence was often perpetrated by the opposition-affiliated Islamists, the government and the police were not always seen to be prompt in protecting the affected minorities from abuses directed against them by nongovernmental actors, and government-affiliated actors have also been implicated in the instigation of such violence. According to Ain o Salish Kendra, the most important human rights organisation in Bangladesh, the violence against Hindus alone resulted in 2014 in 761 homes and 193 businesses destroyed; 247 temples, monasteries and statues vandalised; 255 persons injured, two raped and one killed.”

EU-FoRBFor more on the state of religious freedom in the world, see the EP Intergroup on FoRB & RT Annual Report on the ‘State of Freedom of Religion or Belief.