Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Keynote: Brian Grim – Japan Dare to Overcome 2022

I am so pleased to be back in Japan after more than two years away due to the pandemic. I want to begin by thanking Ken Taylor and the MetaVenture team for all their work, including Ken coming to American in May to pass the DTO flag to India, with the help of our global partner, American Airlines.

Today, I would like to share three things. First, I will give a brief history of Dare to Overcome and its mission. Second, I will discuss how and why the future of business lies in embracing diversity. As I discuss this, I will also describe how embracing diversity connects to the peace mission of Dare to Overcome. And third, I will describe the global network that is part of Dare to Overcome and conclude by inviting all of you to stay involved and join us in India in September 2023 for the next Global Dare to Overcome.

DTO History and Mission

DTO is a response to a challenge by H.E. Ban Ki-moon, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, to explore how business can be a powerful force for peace – both within businesses as well as in the communities where businesses work. Here are his words as he describes this mission at our 2018 DTO in Korea.

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This was an entirely new concept for the United Nations to explore, and as they looked at general causes of both war and peace, they found that religion can play both roles. Some of the most powerful advocates of peace are people motivated by religious ideals such as is captured in the Gold Rule that most religious and belief systems embrace: “Treat others as you yourself would like to be treated.” At the same time, the United Nations recognized that when people are motivated by religious zeal and go to war, the wars are more deadly and harder to end. It was in the context of the War on Terror that the United Nations invited my foundation, the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, to do research on how business can be a powerful force for building interfaith understanding, religious freedom and peace.

This is a topic I am very familiar with, having a Ph.D. in the sociology of religion and specializing in the role religious freedom plays in peace. While I’ve written many articles and books on this topic, only when we began working with the United Nations did I look into the role of business. What we found was amazing. We published it in a United Nations Global Compact report and presented it to H.E. Ban Ki-moon in 2014 in Bali, Indonesia, at the UN Alliance of Civilizations. We found that not only are businesses active in this area, but they are innovative.

Let me give an example. The longest militarily guarded border in the world is the one separating India and Pakistan. The two nuclear armed countries were separated in the aftermath of the British withdrawal from India, with Pakistan to be a homeland mainly for Muslims and India for Hindus and other non-Muslims. One million people or more died during the upheaval of this partition, and relations continue to be tense today. In that environment, Coca-Cola, wanted to sell its products in both countries and not become the Hindu cola Muslims won’t drink or the Muslim cola Hindus won’t drink, here’s what they did. They set out to break down barriers by creating a simple moment of connection between Indians and Pakistanis. The initiative “Small World Machines” provided a live communications portal to show that what unites us is stronger than what sets us apart. The key to engaging with each other through the machines was simple: people in India and Pakistan could complete a task, like touching hands, dancing, drawing peace, love, and happiness symbols — together. And their reward was an ice-cold Coke! Let’s watch.

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DTO continues in such peacemaking efforts by helping to break down barriers, beginning in workplaces around the world. This brings us to the second point: how and why the future of business lies in embracing diversity.
Embracing Diversity

One of the Gold Medalist from the DTO Tokyo Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards was the CEO of the Intel Corporation, Pat Gelsinger. In his acceptance speech, he emphasized the critical value of having strong teams, and that having diverse backgrounds, beliefs and ideas makes strong teams. Embracing diversity leads to more productivity.

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And this diversity is not just around beliefs and ideas, but also around including people with disabilities, or in other words, “differing abilities.” At our recent Washington DC DTO, we welcomed people with differing abilities to our conference to share how we can be better allies. One of the main messages was make environments where people’s needs are accommodated and where people with differing abilities are recognized for the abilities that they have and given space to use them and flourish. A perfect example comes from PayPal. Video (1:00)

I am so excited to hear more on including people with differing abilities from our distinguished speakers, Justin Greene from Accenture USA, and Mr. Hiroyasu Ito, Chairman of NPO Japan Abilities, and NPO Japan Abilities Association. I can’t wait to hear their comments today.

Since Dare to Overcome is at its root a peace initiative, embracing diversity in workplaces and in societies is one of the best ways to foster peace and end violence, including violence in the form of human trafficking. Related to that, I’m also very excited to hear from Masako Tanaka, of the Faculty of Global Studies here at Sophia University, on the horrible global problem of human trafficking. Countering such common threats to humanity is another way of not only solving problems, but also of building peace as we work together for the greater good.

One of our partners, DELL Technologies, was able to mount a global education campaign to counter human trafficking thanks to their embrace of diversity in the workplace. They did this by having all their diversity employee resource groups (or ERGs) join in a global push. As you’ll see in this video, a representative from each of their diversity groups spoke about why this is important to their own communities and about the ways they can work together to end trafficking today. Let’s watch.

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Diversity is not enough. We need to embrace diversity fully. What we envision is a future of positive, practical, principled pluralism—what we are calling “covenantal pluralism.” Why label this kind of pluralism “covenantal”? The central virtue of the concept of “covenant” is that it holistically encompasses both rules and relationships. It requires both a framework of equal rights and responsibilities, and a supportive cultural context of respectful engagement, relationship, and reciprocity—even amidst stark differences in theologies, values, and lifestyles.

The philosophy of covenantal pluralism entails the responsibility to engage, respect, and protect one another, without judging the other. This does not mean that we stop trying to be the best in our business or life. Quite the contrary, we believe that peace comes through constructive competition—that is, competition conducted in a certain spirit (loving and friendly) and under the right conditions (free and fair). This video helps unpack this concept. Even though the examples given are from religions and beliefs, the principles apply to all differences.

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Global Network Holding DTO in Japan, Korea, Brazil and Washington DC has allowed us to build a global network of like-minded businesses, business leaders, universities and NGOs, all working for the principles of covenantal pluralism. Some may use different terminology, but the concept of covenantal pluralism is what unites all our partners. For example, one of our partners in Lebanon – just miles from the Syrian border – has set up a factory to make wheelchairs, intentionally employing people of different religions who share one thing – they all have physical disabilities that have prevented them from finding other work. By working together, they not only have peace by earner the world, including making a living, but they make peace with people that are sometimes on the opposite sides of conflicts.

Our Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards are given to leaders of such businesses who are finding ways to bring people who are different together in common cause.

Our award winners are truly global coming from all over the world, including countries as diverse as Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Mozambique, Netherlands, UAE, UK & US, and JAPAN.

An award winner who unfortunately could be here today is Japan resident Dr. John Gaithright. I’d like to share his work with you in video format. He gives us a beautiful analogy of human diversity by seeing how biodiversity is what makes our planet so wonderful. In the same way, human diversity – including the diversity of people’s abilities and disabilities – is what makes humanity beautiful. We need to see this diversity as beauty.

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I would like to thank each and every one of you for being part of the very diverse DTO family, and I cordially invite you to stay involved. Because peace takes many hands and methods to build, each of us can play a part. Consider joining us in New Delhi, India, from September 23-25, 2023, for the next global DTO. Thank you.