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  • March-8-2018

Practising Religious Freedom for CSR

Oceanic Pharmachem Private Limited (OPPL) believes that making religious freedom a part of the CSR Policy can produce direct, positive benefits to company operations, improve economic markets, and lead to lasting changes in communities.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Organizations stand to benefit from supporting the right of religious freedom by being recognised as ethically sensitive, which can improve the bottom line. The ensuing sections list the CSR contributions businesses can ensure while implementing religious freedom.

Economic Equality & Growth
Religious freedom provides a social support network and an outlet for stress. These benefits enhance the productive capacity of people, resulting in greater economic equality and in turn, encouraging societal stability. Religion influences individual traits that enhance economic performance, such as honesty, work ethic, thrift, and openness to strangers, which create a cultural & political environment more favourable to business and also creates contacts among individuals that develop into economic relationships. Increased human & social development and strong democratic institutions, contribute to multifaceted economic growth and increase human capital. A diverse group of people thus has means to participate in a more prosperous market environment, allowing business operations to proceed with fewer hindrances. Religious freedom facilitates economic expansion, which allows communities to grow and businesses to improve profitability. As a result, economic growth responds positively.

Reduced Corruption
Restrictions on religious liberty increase corruption. Burdensome regulations establish relationships that foster corruption. Religions favoured have incentives to use the system to impede competition, using their enhanced position to obtain advantages and promote their expansion. Obvious forms of corruption include laws and enforcement that benefits certain religions; less visible corruption includes bribes. Religious competition strengthens religious participation which will strengthen the moral values in a society. Religious freedom curtails relationships that intrinsically lead to corruption and helps reduce costs imposed on businesses such as lost opportunities or increased transactions.

Reduced Conflict
A deficit of religious pluralism where only a few major sects exist, exacerbates religious zeal, resulting in conflict, which can bring communities to a standstill, threaten investment, and impair markets. Stifled religious competition will reduce religious violence. Religious freedom reduces a particular religion’s access to power and provides all religious groups with the same privileges. A plurality of religions forces religious leaders to learn candour and moderation as they are surrounded on all sides with more adversaries than friends. Lower levels of conflict will create an environment more favourable to business investment and allow societies to devote their resources to activities that are more beneficial to businesses.

Favourable Employment Environment
Religious freedom creates a better employment environment and has a positive impact on an organization’s employees. Religious or spiritual beliefs often form an inseparable part of an individual’s life. Given the amount of time people spend at work, the office becomes part of their community and a focal point for social interaction. Permitting the appropriate expressions of an individual’s spirituality provides employees with a mechanism to satisfy their emotional needs. A CSR policy that includes religious freedom provides a more hospitable work environment for employees and may increase employee productivity. The protection of religious pluralism through CSR policies also reduces religious discrimination, harassment, and conflict in the workplace and moulds corporate culture so that greater respect and tolerance exists among people of different backgrounds. People are more willing to tolerate the religious peculiarities of their co-workers when their own religious peculiarities are protected. Openness between employees allows them to learn more about each other in a way that can unify the company. Greater employee unity and self-fulfilment increases employee morale and will often result in better job performance, customer-oriented focus and in higher productivity. The more content people are in their personal lives, the happier, healthier and more industrious they will be at work, in turn, improving the firm’s recruitment and retention.

Improved Business Results
Additional profitable opportunities exist with the promotion of religious freedom. Businesses may gain competitive advantage by engaging stakeholder (including consumers, business partners, and investors) expectations that they assist in complex environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges. Some consumers are often as concerned with ethical issues as with the market price, convenience and product quality. Ethically sensitive customers tend to prefer companies that are responsive to human rights, which may give an advantage in competitive markets. Potential business partners and ethical investment funds tend to prefer companies that are responsive to human rights. Responsible corporate performance makes a company more attractive for collaboration with potential partners (business partners, joint ventures, and mergers & acquisitions) by creating an image of greater reliability, which favours in its valuation. When investing, socially responsible investors consider factors in addition to the company’s income, wealth creation, or yield, including social, ethical, or environmental factors. To successfully balance economic efficiency with social benefits, companies need to apply an inclusive approach, recognizing that business coexists with the citizenry it serves. Businesses that consider all stakeholders’ interests in their CSR policies, including religious interests, will financially perform better. That religious freedom is less common among CSR initiatives creates a unique opportunity for business to reach a large, yet untouched segment of the market. Moreover, facilitating the protection of an individual’s religious rights is a very personal way to build trust.

Business organizations only stand to benefit by adopting CSR programs that include the human right of religious freedom. Religious participation fosters literacy, poverty relief, vocational and health
training, as well as marital and bereavement counselling. Other benefits may include increased health, improvement of women’s lives, and greater civic participation. Sufficient involvement of the business community in promoting religious liberty as part of their CSR programs can create a favourable social and economic climate. All these benefits create a more stable prosperous society that benefits business.

Within the organization itself, employees will be happier and more productive than they otherwise would be. More of the businesses’ employees will be willing to work in remote locations if they can practice their faith there. Ultimately, a well-crafted program that protects and promotes religious freedom inside of the corporation’s own walls and in the community it services may bring it financial rewards.

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