Four Ways Businesses Are Advancing Peace and Religious Freedom

by | Aug 30, 2014

Last week, a groundbreaking new religious freedom & business resource highlights four ways that businesses are supporting interfaith understanding and peace today. The findings will be introduced during the 2014 Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) held in Bali, Indonesia, August 29-30.

BUSINESS: A Powerful Force for Supporting Interfaith Understanding and Peace” is co-published by the UN Global Compact Business for Peace platform and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. It discusses a variety of case studies from around the world that demonstrate the different ways businesses are making an impact. These include:

1) Using Marketing Expertise to Bridge Borders: Companies are making positive contributions to peace in society by mobilizing advertising campaigns that bring people of various faiths and backgrounds together, as seen in the case study, “Coke Serves Up Understanding Across Borders.”

2) Incentivizing Innovation: Because cross-cultural dialogue and cooperation is an essential part of daily work for multinational companies, one company for instance, 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.

3) Incubating and Catalyzing Social Entrepreneurship: Business can also provide common ground where religious differences give way to shared concern and enterprise. The case study “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. In Brazil, where religious freedom is generally well respected, the Petrobras company supports a business incubation for Afro-Brazilians, showing how company support for new small enterprises can have a significant impact in developing and empowering marginalized communities.

4) 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 seen in Indonesia,  where businesses open their doors to faith, such as prayer rooms for various faiths, and actions including helping interfaith couples have easier access to marriage.

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.

Commenting on the report, Georg Kell, Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact, observes, “Successfully managing diversity and fostering tolerance and understanding – among employees, consumers and other stakeholders – is increasingly essential for long-term business success.”

Through this new 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.


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