Business: A powerful force for
interfaith understanding & peace

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Belief Without Borders – Building Bridges Across Faiths at Accenture

16 Feb, 2018

By Dan Eckstein

Dan Eckstein is a Director in Accenture’s Communications, Media and Technology practice. He is passionate about Inclusion and Diversity and is on a mission to make Accenture the most truly human organization in the digital age while ensuring that every employee can have a feeling of belonging. He is also the leader of Accenture’s Employee Experience Council for I&D and the Interfaith and Jewish employee resource groups in NY Metro.

What does it mean to bring your whole self to work—body, mind, heart and soul?

At Accenture, it means being free to express your passions, aspirations and strengths—all the unique qualities that make you…well, you. It’s a place where you can feel comfortable talking openly about topics that are sometimes considered taboo. Faith is often one of them.

As an observant Jew, I’ve always been passionate about inclusion and diversity, especially the topic of one’s faith at work. After graduating college, it was a challenge to figure out how I wanted to balance my religion and my work. I found myself trying to compartmentalize my work life from my religious life. But it didn’t feel right. I wanted to be transparent about who I am, and be consistent both inside and outside the office. My religion is something I’m proud of.

I learned about the Interfaith Employee Resource Group (ERG) shortly after joining the company. Empowering employees to be their true, authentic self, the ERG is open to individuals of all faiths and those who do not identify with any faith.

Partnering with the leaders of our seven Faith ERGs in the NY Metro area (Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Other), we work together as volunteers to host events that focus on a wide variety of topics—from Interfaith Marriage to LGBTQ and Faith, to discussions led by local faith leaders. We host events to explore our respective religions—through Sabbath meals, Ramadan Iftaar meals, Diwali celebrations and prayer breakfasts. We plan social outings and participate in corporate citizenship activities together. I’m proud that we’re able to be open about religion in the workplace and use it as a tool to connect more deeply with each other.

I’m proud of what we are accomplishing at Accenture as we enable all employees to be Truly Human and talk about Faith at Work. As Ellyn Shook, our Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer said, “When we bring our whole selves to work it becomes the moment when we can be our best both professionally and personally.”

I encourage you to check out these 3 links when you have time:

Corporate Training on Religious Diversity and Inclusion (RD&I)

15 Feb, 2018

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and the Religious Freedom Center jointly offer education programs for businesses across the globe.

These half, one and two-day seminars help middle management and executives become religiously literate. That is, they become conversant about how religion impacts the workplace and the marketplace, their coworkers and partners as well as customers and clients.

Participants gain an understanding of the empirical evidence on the value that religious liberty, religious diversity, and religious inclusion and their impact on business strategy, corporate policy and economic growth.


 

Press Release: 2018 Global Business & Peace Symposium and Awards

9 Feb, 2018


March 7th/8th 2018 Seoul, South Korea

H.E. Ban Ki-moon, the former UN Secretary General, will address the latest developments in the North-South Korean negotiations at the Business and Peace symposium in Seoul, the day before the Winter Paralympics begin.


The Symposium includes business, political and academic leaders from around the world and will discuss themes including religious nondiscrimination and inclusion in the workplace. With his high-profile commitment to business and peace, His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, as well as providing his expert insight in to the tense situation on the Korean peninsular, will also speak about how business is a powerful force supporting interfaith understanding and peace.

Top South Korean government leaders will welcome a delegation from the symposium at the National Assembly. “Korean support for this event is tremendous,” said Brian Grim, international organizer and President of the Religious freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF). “This shows the initiative’s timely contribution to peace, held at this time of heightened tensions and in tandem with the Olympics.”

A main focus of the event will be the presentation of the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards, given to CEOs worldwide for their promotion of peace through interfaith knowledge and action. Awardees include:

  • – Ernst and Young’s UK Chairman Steve Varley who has overseen a first-of-its-kind online program, Religious Literacy for Organizations, helping earn EY the #1 slot on DiversityInc’s 2017 diversity and inclusiveness list.
  • Mark Woerde, Founder Havas Lemz and LetsHeal.org, who believes he can make the world a better place through interfaith advertising featuring the world’s most prominent religious leaders including Pope Francis.
  • – Former Dell Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Ingrid Vanderveldt, who has the ambitious goal of, by 2020, empowering a billion women from all faiths to work together to achieve more, give more and accomplish more.
  • – The Global Business & Peace Awards, will also give awards to business leaders from South Korea who have worked to build positive ties with North Korea, selected by high level government officials.

This is the second Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards. The inaugural awards were given the day before the opening of the Rio Paralympics in 2016. This pioneering peace initiative was started by RFBF and is a collaboration with the Global Compact Network Korea, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC).

The Awards began after H.E. Ban Ki-moon established the Business for Peace platform in 2013 within the UNGC, the world’s largest corporate member organization committed to the Sustainable Development Goals, which notably include SGD 16 (Peace) “Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”


Davos: The Power of Faith (live video)

27 Jan, 2018

What faith-based narratives have the potential to emphasize the value of pluralism while promoting a sense of belonging and unity? This session was live-streamed from Davos on Jan. 26, 2018, as part of the formal program of the 2018 annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. It is available on TopLink and the Forum website.


Moderator:

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  • Founder and Director, Harvard International Negotiation Program
  • Harvard University

Panellists:

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  • Principal Representative
  • Bahá’í International Community

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  • Convenor
  • Mission 2020

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  • President
  • Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

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  • Cardinal; Prefect
  • Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development

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  • President
  • Zaytuna College

Why Trump should address religious freedom at Davos

23 Jan, 2018

Brian Grim, at the World Economic Forum in Davos

Image from White House homepage links to  Jan. 16, 2018 Presidential Declaration

Davos is not a particularly friendly place for Pres. Donald Trump and his mission ‘to make America great again.’ The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum attracts a fair number of people who see Trump’s vision as nationalistic and counterproductive to the type of global cooperation espoused here – working together to solve the world’s problems. This is the very type of cooperation Pope Francis called for in his address (read by Cardinal Turkson). Significantly, Pope Francis’s comments were the first to be made at this year’s meeting.

It is commendable that Pres. Trump is willing to come face a crowd this Friday that is not likely to cheer his vision. To be clear, this is a risky gamble that could backfire. Yet, it might be a forum where the ‘businessman side’ of the President connects with the massive gathering of CEOs and world leaders.

This gathering affords Pres. Trump the opportunity to tout America’s economic vibrancy as well as the civic virtues that have made the U.S. a model for many in the world. One such civic virtue is religious freedom and how it is a pillar of America’s economic vibrancy.

Religious freedom in the United States sets religious organizations and people free to annually contribute nearly $1.2 trillion of socio-economic value to the U.S. economy, according to a September 2016 first-of-its-kind study published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (see wide global press coverage of the study).

  • — That is equivalent to being the world’s 15th largest national economy, putting it ahead of about 180 other countries.
  • — It’s more than the annual revenues of the world’s top 10 tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and Google.
  • — And it’s also more than 50% larger than that of the annual global revenues of America’s 6 largest oil and gas companies.

So – you might say – that represents a lot of spiritually inspired fuel being pumped into the U.S. economy.

Religion does play a unique role in the socio-economic behaviors of Americans. For example, adults who are highly religious are significantly more likely than those who are less religious to report they did volunteer work and made donations to the poor in the past week, according to the Pew Research Center.

The contributions of religion to American society fall into three general categories:

  • — $418 billion from religious congregations
  • — $303 billion from other religious institutions
  • — $437 billion from faith-based, faith-related or faith-inspired businesses

All these figures come from a careful analysis of survey and financial data from a wide range of national sources detailed in the research article in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, including:

  • — National Congregations Study
  • — Religious Congregations and Membership Study
  • — Private School Universe Survey
  • — Institution of Education Sciences
  • — Becker’s Hospital Review
  • — Revenue reports of faith-based health organizations, charities & businesses
  • — Faith-related business data by Oxford University’s Said Business School Professor Theodore Roosevelt Malloch
  • — Congregational “halo effect” analysis by University of Pennsylvania Professor Ram Cnaan
  • — World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith

Each year congregations spend $84 billion on their operations ranging from paying hundreds of thousands of personnel, to paying for goods and service as diverse as flowers, sounds systems, maintenance, and utilities. Almost all being spent right in the local community.

Schools attached to congregations employ 420,000 full time teachers and train 4.5 million students each year. By comparison this is the same number as the total population of Ireland or New Zealand.

Congregations are like magnets attracting economic activity ranging from weddings, as I’ve already mentioned and can give personal detail on, to lectures, congresses, and even tourism. For instance, 120,000 congregations report that people visit them to view their art and architecture.

And most importantly, it’s what congregations do in their communities that makes the biggest socio-economic contribution. These programs impact individuals and families in a variety of important ways. For example:

  • — Congregations provide 130,000 alcohol recovery programs such as The Saddleback Church “Celebrate Recovery” program that has helped over 27,000 individuals over the past 25 years.
  • — Congregations provide 120,000 programs to help the unemployed. For example, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has employment service centers in each of their stakes across the country (and across the world), for that matter.

Some of this work runs counter to stereotypes some may have about religious groups. For instance,

  • — Nearly 26,000 congregations are engaged in some form of active ministry to help people living with HIV-AIDS. That makes one HIV-AIDS ministry for every 46 people who are HIV positive. Just this past weekend on 9/11, under the sponsorship of Walgreen’s and the “First Ladies” (pastors’ wives) of Chicago, nearly 50 Chicago churches hosted free screening for HIV and other diseases.
  • — In fact, the data show that congregations overwhelmingly include a society-building, outward community focus, with over 320,000 congregations helping to recruit volunteers for programs outside their walls, to non-religious groups, ranging from Big Brothers and Big Sisters to the United Way and the American Red Cross.

One story among thousands of how a congregational school impacts individuals who then impact the community for good comes from inner city Newark, NJ. St. Benedict’s Prep readies 530 mostly poor, mostly minority boys for college and beyond. In an area where public schools are working hard just to keep young men from ending up in gangs, in jail or dead, St. Benedict’s sends 95% of its graduates to college, including a sizable number to Ivy League schools.

And graduates, such as Uriel Burwell, return to make an impact. Upon graduating from Drew University, Uriel returned to his childhood neighborhood to build 50 new affordable houses, rehabilitate more than 30 homes and attracted more than $3 million funding to build additional affordable homes and apartments in the area.

Religious Institutions: If we extend our view beyond what happens at local congregations and schools, we can find tens of thousands of other religiously-affiliated charities, health care facilities, and institutions of higher learning also doing these sorts of good works every day. These add another $303 billion of socio-economic impact to the US economy each year. These includes:

  • — Charities such as the Knights of Columbus whose 1.5 million members respond to disasters and other human needs
  • — Health care services such as provided by the Adventist Health Systems which employ 78,000 people in 46 hospitals
  • — Institutions of higher education such as Brandeis University which is one of thousands of religiously-based colleges throughout the country
  • — I could go on for hours describing such as institutions as Islamic Relief USA, which responded to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, by hiring 20 local staff and distributing 135,000 gallons of water during the height of the water crisis.
  • — Rather than continuing to give examples, I will now move to the third sector, business

Businesses: Religion related business add another $438 billion to the US economy each year. These include faith-based businesses, ranging from the Halal and Kosher food industries to religious media such as EWTN and the Christian Broadcast Network.

The largest group within this sector are not religious companies, per se, but are faith-inspired or religion-friendly companies. Tyson’s Foods, for example, employs a large force of chaplains for their multi-religious workforce.

Across the country there are associations of CEOs who seek to put the moral and ethical teachings of their faith to practice in their business. One such association is C12 with over 2,500 members, some of whom have business worth billions of dollars.

Let me conclude with example showing how one American CEO, motivated by his faith, has started a company in Mozambique that not only stocks the shelves of America’s major food stores – from Giant and Wegmans to Whole Foods and H.E.B. – but empowers tens of thousands of people. His innovative business model is based on what he calls a “reverse tithe” – where 90% of profits go back into the local community. That means many American consumers are participating in a faith endeavor, perhaps unaware.

As President Trump comes, I for one hope it warms global relations by his sharing about some of America’s tremendous civic virtues, like freedom of religion or belief for all.

Pope Francis’s message to Davos 2018 in Bullet Points

23 Jan, 2018

 

These are selected points from a prepared speech read at Davos by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Professor Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Invited Pope Francis’s Participation

  • — “The theme chosen for this year’s Forum – Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World – is very timely. I trust that it will assist in guiding your deliberations as you seek better foundations for building inclusive, just and supportive societies, capable of restoring dignity to those who live with great uncertainty and who are unable to dream of a better world.”
  • — The recurring financial instabilities have brought new problems and serious challenges that governments must confront, such as the growth of unemployment, the increase in various forms of poverty, the widening of the socio-economic gap and new forms of slavery, often rooted in situations of conflict, migration and various social problems.
  • — In this context, it is vital to safeguard the dignity of the human person, in particular by offering to all people real opportunities for integral human development and by implementing economic policies that favour the family.
  • — So too artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations must be so employed that they contribute to the service of humanity and to the protection of our common home, rather than to the contrary, as some assessments unfortunately foresee.
  • — It is a moral imperative, a responsibility that involves everyone, to create the right conditions to allow each person to live in a dignified manner.
  • — Now is the time to take courageous and bold steps for our beloved planet. This is the right moment to put into action our responsibility to contribute to the development of humanity.”

From the Vatican, 12th January 2018

Brian Grim to speak on the power of faith at Davos

15 Jan, 2018

Grim joins world’s business & political leaders – from Trump to Merkel and Macron – in Davos for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, Jan. 23-26

Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World

Global business and political leaders gather in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 23-26 at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting on international politics, economics, and social issues. Davos’ theme this year is “creating a shared future in a fractured world.”

RFBF President Brian Grim will join 2,500 heads of state, CEOs, business leaders and policymakers seeking to resolve some of the world’s most pressing problems such as inequality, climate change and poverty. Grim will speak on how faith to address these issues.


Research

Grim has worked with the World Economic Forum in various capacities, including a speaker at Davos (2018), chair of WEF’s global agenda council on the role of faith (2016), and a member of the same council (2014-16). Check out the research from the Faith Council.

The Council’s report on The Role of Faith in Systematic Global Challenges is part of a “toolkit” developed by members of the Council, which seeks to increase “religious literacy” – including awareness and understanding of the positive impact of the role of faith in various sectors – in our complex world.


Meeting Overview, by the World Economic Forum

“At the close of the 20th century, the presumption was that greater economic interdependence among countries, buttressed by liberal democratic institutions, would ensure peace and stability well into the new century. The global context today has changed dramatically: geostrategic fissures have re-emerged on multiple fronts with wide-ranging political, economic and social consequences. Realpolitik is no longer just a relic of the Cold War. Economic prosperity and social cohesion are not one and the same. The global commons cannot protect or heal itself.

Politically, governance is being transformed by new and contending strategic narratives. Such narratives have emerged in response to national, regional and global divides, but many of them are bereft of the innovation, inspiration and idealism essential for transformational change.

Economically, policies are being formulated to preserve the singular benefits of global integration while limiting its shared obligations. Yet, such policy prescriptions are fragmented, biased or uninformed when considered in the context of sustainable development, inclusive growth and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Socially, citizens yearn for responsive leadership that addresses local and national concerns; yet, a shared identity and collective purpose remain elusive despite living in an age of social networks. All the while, the social contract between states and their citizens continues to erode. Changing the situation on the ground requires more responsive governance, but this cannot absolve governments of their regional and global responsibilities.

The fractures that have emerged politically, economically and socially must not foster intolerance, indecision and inaction. The 48th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting therefore aims to rededicate leaders from all walks of life to developing a shared narrative to improve the state of the world. The programme, initiatives and projects of the meeting are focused on Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.

By coming together at the start of the year, we can shape the future by joining this unparalleled global effort in co-design, co-creation and collaboration. The Annual Meeting in Davos remains a global platform unmatched in engaging leaders from business, government, international organizations, academia and civil society in peer-to-peer working sessions. The programme’s depth and breadth make it a true summit of summits.”

Role of Religion

Rising income inequality contributes to social and political unrest, threatening our economic future and general wellbeing. While it is clear that social problems will increase if economic growth benefits a small minority, there is very little concrete analysis of how different sectors of society contribute to the goal of inclusive growth. The need for better analysis is reflected in the World Economic Forum’s new programme to benchmark progress toward economic growth and social inclusion.

Why is the faith factor important to consider? First, because religious adherence is on the rise, as is clearly seen in recent research on religious demographics. Second, because religion is often ignored.

Stay tuned for more from Brian Grim as Davos nears …

As North & South Korea Olympic talks open door, Ban Ki-moon to keynote Business & Peace Symposium

9 Jan, 2018

At their first meeting in two years, North and South Korea agreed to defuse tensions, beginning with the North’s participation in the Olympics. This makes a reality of the hope stated repeatedly by Korean authorities and the PyeongChang Winter Olympic organizers that this would be the Olympics of Peace.

As part of this peace initiative, the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation — in collaboration with the Global Compact Network Korea, the United Nations Global Compact Business (UNGC) for Peace platform, and the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) — will hold a global business and peace symposium as the Winter Olympics close and the Winter Paralympics begin.

Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will keynote the March 7-8 Global Business & Peace Symposium. H.E. Ban Ki-moon established the Business for Peace platform in 2013 within the UNGC, the world’s largest corporate member organization committed to the Sustainable Development Goals, which notably include SGD 16 (Peace).

Soon after the establishment of Business for Peace, the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation launched the Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards, which are given out in the host country of each Summer and Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. The inaugural awards were given the day before the opening of the Rio Paralympics, and this year’s awards will be given in Seoul the day before the opening of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympics.

The awards will be given along with other awards at the 2018 Global Business and Peace Symposium. Special honors will be given to business leaders who have worked to advance peace with North Korea, including some involved with the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), located inside North Korea just across the demilitarized zone from South Korea. The project was launched in 2004, largely financed by the South to increase co-operation. The Complex was abruptly closed on February 10, 2016 by former Korean President Park Geun-hye’s administration. The incumbent President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, has indicated a desire to “reopen and expand” the region. Of course, that now depends on progress with the security situation.

Pictured at left is H.E. Ban Ki-moon reviewing the details of the Global Business & Peace Symposium and Awards.

Previously, H.E. Ban Ki-moon participated in the first UNAOC’s business and peace symposium at the 2014 UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) meeting in Bali, Indonesia. At that meeting, a joint publication was launched between the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, Indonesian Global Compact Network (IGCN), and the UNGC’s Business for Peace Platform. Mr. Ban is pictured below with the research report, “Business: A Powerful Force Supporting Interfaith Understanding & Peace.”

Indeed, as the report showed, interfaith understanding – and its contribution to peace – is in the interest of business. The report highlights several key areas where this is clear:

  • 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.

IGCN president, Y.W. Junardy, took home the gold medal at the 2016 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards.