Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bahai CSR activism

Did you know the Bahai faith are CSR activists? During our short vacation last week, we visited the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahai faith. This Shrine is just a short ride away from the ancient city of Acre, and is a breathtaking pocket of peace and tranquility in the midst of bustling urban surroundings. We enjoyed the picturesque gardens and a shoe-less silent visit inside the shrine. We learnt about the religion and its 6 million followers.

The Gardens

The Shrine (oops, my kids got in the way, sorry about that!)

Bahá'ís believe the crucial need facing humanity is to find a unifying vision of the nature and purpose of life and of the future of society. The key teachings are that all humanity is one people, that men and women are equal, and that all racial, national economic or religious prejudice should be overcome, and that economic problems are linked to spiritual problems. Actually, it was the gender thing that caught my eye (go girls!) . The Bahai make equality a core tennet of their faith and act to promote the advancement of women for social and economic reasons. I noticed that the Bahai, through their non-profit organization, are very active in advancing a range of social and environmental causes. And then I saw the Bahai European Business Forum whose mission, under the banner of "people inspiring responsible business", is To promote ethical values, personal virtues, and moral leadership in business as well as in organizations of social change. Sounds like CSR to me! Here is a publication on CSR by the Eurporean Bahai Business forum produced as early as 1997. And Bahai bloggers do a great job here. So I got to thinking that the Bahai ought to be producing a CSR report. And lo and behold, I find they have produced an annual report, available on line since 2001. Here is the 2008 report. Whilst it is not GRI, or designed in the familiar structured way of CR reports, it is certainly an account of the impacts of the Bahai business forum in a kind of triple bottom line sense and a transparent view of the activities of the Bahai business activists in researching, discussing, participating and partnering the responsible business initiatives, gender equality and human rights causes.
And the Bahai recipe of csr with tranquility, humanity, equality, inclusivity and ice-cream (ok, the ice-cream bit is my contribution), it seems to me that religion and business can actually have a positive impact.

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm . Visit our website at:

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