Religions have a central yet underexplored impact on business & society

Author: Dr. Ali Aslan Gümüsay


Dr. Ali Aslan Gümüsay is Head of Research Group Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Society |
Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society Researcher|University of Hamburg




Faith is a social fact that is underexplored in studies at the intersection of business and society. As it is oftentimes quite contentious, it is almost a taboo topic. This is unfortunate given that over 80% of the world population is religiously affiliated and for some it is the ultimate and most central concern in their (business) lives.

In the paper, I use an institutional lens to highlight two shortcomings: First, those studies that explore the role of religion commonly center around Christianity and ‘the West’. I appreciate these studies, but I advocate for complementary work on other religions and outside the Western domain. In addition, I note that with increasing global interconnectedness, religions from across the world intermingle and shape business behaviour. This “religious logic plurality” needs to be analyzed to better conceptualize emerging social reality.

Second, religions can be quite pervasive. This means that they not only interact with, say, business, but may fundamentally transform the very core of it. In the paper, I call this “religious logic prevalence” to capture the possibility for religions to alter the very underlying logics, such as family and business, which organizations draw from. Elsewhere, I make a related note when speaking about entrepreneurship from an Islamic perspective and how religion may transform core concepts, such as entrepreneurial opportunities and leadership. Empirically, the impact of religion and related challenges can be observed, for instance, in Islamic Finance, where faith is interwoven with business, but also in mainstream businesses, such as Chick-fil-A, a restaurant chain.

The research outlook is that there is still much to explore. Which is a ‘blessing’ of sorts.


Gümüsay, A. A. 2015. Entrepreneurship from an Islamic Perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 130(1): 199–208.

Gümüsay, A. A. 2018. Unpacking entrepreneurial opportunities: An institutional logics perspective. Innovation: Organization & Management, 20(3): 209–222.

Gümüsay, A. A. 2019. Embracing religions in moral theories of leadership. The Academy of Management Perspectives, 33(3): 292–306.

Gümüsay, A. A. 2020. The Potential for Plurality and Prevalence of the Religious Institutional Logic. Business & Society, 59(5): 855–880.

Gümüsay, A. A., Smets, M., & Morris, T. 2020. “God at Work”: Engaging Central and Incompatible Institutional Logics through Elastic Hybridity. Academy of Management Journal, 63(1): 124–154.

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