The rapid rise of generative AI has been used positively. However, increasingly divisive actors have weaponized AI to generate deep fakes, which has promoted prejudice and misperceptions about faith and culture.
The tragic conflicts of recent times show how far humanity still needs to go to build a viable peace for shared prosperity. They demonstrate that cultural and faith-based identity, when not properly integrated into the work, can result in undercurrents that can suddenly come to the fore and disrupt society and the economy.
The Role of Faith in the Economy
A recent report by the World Economic Forum titled Faith in Action: Religion and Spirituality in the Polycrisis revealed that around 85% of the world’s population adhere to a faith or spiritual tradition that defines and influences their values and how they interact in society. The report states:
Several business and global leaders are increasingly seeing value in partnerships with faith actors: in understanding critical opportunities for impact and navigating ongoing societal transitions today. These leaders go beyond basic faith literacy and apply their strategic, contextual understanding of faith communities and traditions to achieve meaningful engagement and impact through partnerships (p. 3).
Why are businesses interested in faith-based initiatives and actors? The answer is simple: they are acknowledging a business reality.
Let us take for instance the case of the global food chain brand McDonalds. They created the Filet-O-Fish to cater to Catholics who did not eat meat on Friday. Similarly, they do not sell beef burgers in India since the country is known for its reverence for cows, which is part of Hindu belief.
These instances exemplify that the outsized role of religion continues to grow.
Experts of the previous century misestimated the role and influence of faith in the current era. According to the Pew Research Center, the world will witness a 23% growth among faith followers than that of a religiously unaffiliated population by 2050. These social changes are represented in the workforce. Various forms of faith and spirituality may have evolved, but they have reappeared in society with vibrancy. Faith, spirituality, and culture influence the decisions and preferences in work, education, investment, eating, clothing, relationships, etc. Thus, technically, for most of the employees, clients, and stakeholders, faith and culture are the defining aspects of their core identity and values.
In cities worldwide, many employed adults spend their time interacting with people from diverse backgrounds. In these workplaces, individuals often do not have the ability to choose who they work with based on their preferences, such as race, faith, or gender. Therefore, it is important to educate oneself about others and their backgrounds.
However, discussing matters of faith, culture, and spirituality is generally seen as inappropriate in the workplace (Grim & Connor, 2015). In the United States alone, 36% of workers have experienced discrimination based on their faith. Many employees tend to overlook these incidents to avoid potential job insecurity or being labeled as orthodox.
Growth with a Faith-Based Perspective
Business leaders need to understand these developments, which influence global market undercurrents, consumption patterns, and voting preferences. (Faith in Action Report, p.7). Bringing faith into business does not mean not focusing on profit; in reality, it means understanding and operating with a faith-based perspective to explore innovative ideas, new markets, and consumers, increase productivity, and bring retention and resilience to business.
The economic crisis of 2008 unlocked the discourses on socially responsible investments, unethical banking system practices, and business resiliency. “The financial crisis also boosted Muslim confidence in propagating the benefits of Islamic systems, as these appeared to have remained immune to this crisis.” ( Niamir-Fuller, Özdemir & Brinkman, 2016, p. 28).
In addition to having strong moral and peace-promoting values, Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) also possess impressive statistics that support their influence in the global economy. As stated in the Faith Action on the UN Sustainable Development Goals: Progress and Outlook Report, FBOs currently have control over 8% of the world’s habitable land surface, 5% of all commercial forests, 50% of schools globally, and 10% of the world’s financial institutions. With such extensive resources, FBOs have the potential to make a significant impact on sustainable development and in financial institutions globally.
Faith expertise is highly significant and obligatory for those trying to access consumer markets where consumers have expectations, increasing purchasing power, and needs and desires that are strongly influenced by their values. For instance:
…[T]he global halal market reached some $2.221 trillion in 2022 and is forecast to have an 11% growth rate, reaching $4.1 trillion by 2028. This is one of six other important Muslim consumer market segments, including “Islamic finance, modest fashion, media and recreation, Muslim-friendly travel, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.” Similar dynamics exist for Kosher, Hindu-friendly, and Mormon-friendly products. Global companies such as Walmart, McDonald’s, and Nestlé are similarly introducing “faith-compliant” products in some countries to engage these faith-influenced consumers. ( Niamir-Fuller, Özdemir & Brinkman, 2016, , p. 8).
Faith in business is the current necessity. However, business leaders do not know how to tackle this issue and realistically transform their business with a faith-based perspective.
Since 2004, Consulus has been comfortable with its interfaith identity. Founded by practicing partners who are Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim, the comfort in welcoming the role of faith while building a business of impact is part of Consulus’ journey.
Over the years, the firm has also worked with leaders in transforming FBOs, such as the leading Islamic Bank of Brunei, Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam, and Wenzao Ursuline University, a Catholic University in Kaoshiung. In each instance, it was the familiarity and comfort in welcoming the role of faith as a force for good that made these partnerships successful.
At a time when the power of AI is abused, the need to find faith-based solutions is now more important than ever. In launching DialogueCORE, Consulus seeks to bring a holistic and applied method for change to FBOs globally and help non-faith-based organizations harness faith and cultural-based identity for good.
In this age of AI, DialogueCORE seeks to counter deep fakes and disinformation with content that is based on recognizing the richness of faith identity and how that has led to the flourishing of societies and economies. We shall seek to do this with our global alliance of higher learning institutions from the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Find out more about DialogueCore here:
Dr. Farha Iman is the newly appointed Global Head for DialogueCORE
Lawrence Chong is the Group CEO of Consulus
Grim, B. J., & Connor, P. (2016). Changing religion, changing economies: Future global religious and economic growth. In Yearbook of International Religious Demography 2016 (pp. 119-128). Brill.
Niamir-Fuller, M., Özdemir, I., & Brinkman, F. J. (2016). Environment, religion and culture in the context of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. United Nations Environment Programme.