Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Can religious insights help corporations regain trust? A discussion with Philip Morris International COO and others

16 Mar, 2021

The global tobacco market size was valued at USD 932.11 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a rate of 1.8% from 2021 to 2028.

One major tobacco company, Philip Morris International (PMI), has committed to a transformation in the tobacco industry to create a smoke-free future and ultimately replace cigarettes with smoke-free products to the benefit of adults who would otherwise continue to smoke, society, the company, and its shareholders.

PMI is building a future on a new category of smoke-free products that, while not risk-free, are a much better choice than continuing to smoke. As of Sept. 30, 2020, PMI estimates that approximately 11.7 million adult smokers around the world have already stopped smoking and switched to PMI’s heat-not-burn product.

How is Trust Developed?

On Thursday, March 18th at 12:30PM EDT,  Jacek Olczak, PMI’s current COO and incoming CEO, will join Brian Grim, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation President, for the panel discussion, Deploying Faith, Developing Trust, at the Horasis Extraordinary Meeting on the United States of America. During the panel, Mr. Olczak will discuss the major transformation occurring at PMI and the need to rebuild trust.

Following Mr. Olczak will be Dr. David W. Miller, Director of the Faith & Work Initiative at Princeton University. Dr. Miller will share insights from his white paper “Towards a ‘Restoration of Trust’: Preliminary Insights and Lessons from Wisdom Traditions” (co-authored with Dr. Michael Thate). Dr. Miller served as an independent, external ethics advisor to PMI and was asked by PMI to write this white paper considering the question of “the restoration of trust” in a corporate context, drawing on wisdom literature found in various religious traditions.*

This project and preliminary white paper came up with eleven theses on the restoration of trust through the lenses of the three Abrahamic traditions (see graphic). The paper and its theses is not about any specific organization; rather, it is written for any institution interested in fresh ways to think about the restoration of trust. Nor is it prescriptive in nature; each organization’s context, history, and approach will vary.

But the authors conclude, “We operate in an extremely competitive global market economy that places high expectations on speed, innovation, increasing corporate profits, return on assets, and return on investment. We also operate as human beings with our own high expectations and eternal yearnings for dignity, respect, and trust. This paper seeks to amend the vector of time and focus from quarterly returns to whole-life returns; to expand and change our mindsets from thinking about the way things are to what they might be; and to integrate the reality of the physical with the wisdom of the metaphysical. Religions, such as the Abrahamic traditions studied here, have spent thousands of years thinking about these very challenges. At their heart is one of the most basic questions of life: trust—and how to rebuild trust after it has been broken.”

Following comments by Dr. Miller, will be interventions by:

The Horasis Extraordinary Meeting is the world’s foremost gathering of business leaders who interact with key government officials and eminent thought leaders. Under the theme Rebuilding Trust, 1000 of the most senior members of the Horasis Visions Community are offered the opportunity to interact with the new US administration to shape America’s and the world’s agenda.

* The research methodology and subsequent findings and views represented in Miller & Thate’s preliminary white paper are the authors’ only and were not influenced by nor do they necessarily reflect the views of PMI. Nor do they necessarily represent the views of Princeton University, where Dr. Miller serves on the faculty and leads a research team exploring contemporary questions at the intersection of faith and work with a particular accent on values, ethics, and character-based leadership in the marketplace. The paper was initially previewed during a special roundtable meeting for executives and civil society leaders and others who have gathered in Davos, Switzerland during the week of the 2020 World Economic Forum meetings