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Workers’ freedom to believe ‘can benefit businesses and economy’

01 December 2023

iStock

FREEDOM of Religion or Belief (FoRB) is good for a country’s economy, and religious diversity is also good for individual busineses, a new report suggests.

The report, Building Freedom of Religion or Belief Through Faith-and-Belief Friendly Workplaces: A call to action, was published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief last week. It concerns the steps that businesses around the world, including many in the UK, are taking to promote “covenantal pluralism” in their workplaces.

Measures to promote FoRB include accommodating employees’ religious needs, respecting holy days, addressing religion in diversity training, and providing spiritual care and chaplaincy.

The report presents an overview of the macro and micro economic arguments for FoRB: “It is one of three factors associated with global economic growth and highly correlated with the World Economic Forum’s pillars of sustainable development,” the authors write.

It draws on data from the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, which found that FoRB “creates an active religious sector”, something that directly contributes to a nation’s wealth. A study by the foundation found that, in the United States, the religious sector contributed nearly $1.2 trillion of socio-economic value to the economy every year.

“[This is] 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 per cent larger than that of the annual global revenues of America’s six largest oil and gas companies,” the authors write. “You might say, that represents a lot of spiritually inspired fuel being pumped into the US economy.”

The report also quotes from a 2014 study, which found that FoRB was one of three factors significantly associated with global economic growth. “While a study such as this does not prove that religious freedom causes economic growth, it does suggest the matter deserves more consideration,” the authors write. “Indeed, as the world navigates away from years of poor economic performance, freedom of religion or belief may be an unrecognised asset.”

Companies in the UK that are singled out for particular praise include OVO Energy, NATS (the largest provider of air-traffic-control services in the UK), Thames Water, Rolls-Royce, and the University of Derby.

The report offers an overview of faith-and-belief employee resource groups, which are one of the ways in which companies have incorporated religion and belief as part of their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. It lists nine principles on how to approach the topic of faith and belief in the workplace, and provides a practical benchmarking tool for organisations to track their progress in the accommodation of FoRB, the Religious Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Index.

Comment: States must be held accountable for undermining religious liberty, says Chibuzor Tina

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