Companies must commit to workplace equality: Senior business leaders

Risk of missing out on millennial LGBT+ talent

Companies must commit to workplace equality: Senior business leaders
A participant walks under a rainbow flag during a gay pride parade promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, in Chandigarh, India, on March 18, 2018. REUTERS/Ajay Verma

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Companies must commit to equality in the workplace or miss out on millennial LGBT+ talent, global business leaders warned on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

Sander van 't Noordende, group chief executive of products at professional services company Accenture, said a corporate culture of equality was both a human rights and business imperative.

"From a talent point of view, we want the best people on board at Accenture and if we do not tap into different pools of talent and have that culture of equality, we're not going to be the best for our clients," he said.

Van 't Noordende was speaking at the launch of the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality at Davos on Tuesday.

Backed by Microsoft, Mastercard, Accenture, Deutsche Bank, EY, Omnicom Group and Salesforce, the initiative is designed to implement the United Nations LGBTI Standards of Conduct for Business.

The U.N. standards, which were launched in 2017, establish five business principles, including respect for human rights and eliminating workplace discrimination.

By 2020, the business partnership aims to sign up an additional 50 to 100 companies.

"The companies involved in this initiative are leading by example when it comes to the rights of LGBTQ people in the context of employment," said Michelle Bachelet, U. N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, which backs the program.

"I support their efforts to extend the initiative to a greater number of private sector actors, as well as to engage with civil society."

Workplace diversity remains an issue for many companies, a study from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) revealed last week.

Almost two-thirds of British LGBT+ employees said they would quit within three years because their company was not committed to a diverse workplace, the study found.

In 2017, UNAIDS researcher Erik Lamontagne estimated workplace homophobia and discrimination cost countries up to US$100 billion a year.

Open, inclusive and diverse societies were more innovative, in turn leading to greater economic growth, said Saadia Zahidi, head of WEF's Centre for the New Economy and Society, citing a recent World Economic Forum report.

"Through this project we aim to provide a platform for leaders from the private sector to accelerate process towards LGBTI inclusion globally," she said.

LGBT+ rights organizations welcomed the new business pact.

"Global brands should now take action, create inclusive workplaces and leverage their economic impact to move policymakers and cultural leaders to accept and protect all people, including LGBTI individuals," said GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis.

"Over 200 companies have expressed support for the UN Standards, but support is merely a first step. With countries including Kenya poised for decriminalization, the opportunity is real and urgent."

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