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Virgin, AmEX, IBM, Google, EY and other global giants unite to fight LGBTI discrimination

‘As our world becomes increasingly interconnected, it is the responsibility of all of us – government, civil society and business – to take a stand against discrimination and injustice.’

Virgin, AmEX, IBM, Google, EY and other global giants unite to fight LGBTI discrimination
Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson in conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson at the Clinton Global Initiative conference yesterday. Virgin is one of the companies backing Open For Business

Fourteen global companies have come together to create a business-led coalition to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) inclusion around the world.

The launch of Open For Business will be announced today at The Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York – a four-day event taking place at the Sheraton New York.

The initiative is being supported by American Express, AT&T, Brunswick, EY, Google, IBM, LinkedIn, Linklaters, MasterCard, McKinsey & Company, Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Chartered, Thomson Reuters and Virgin Group.

The businesses argue that economies perform better and successful businesses thrive in societies that are open, diverse and inclusive. To back up their argument, they are issuing a report based on research carried out in the first half of 2015.

The report was produced, according to its executive summary, because, ‘The coalition identified the need for a stronger and more comprehensive evidence base that makes the business and economic case for LGB&T inclusion.’

The ‘Open For Business: the Economic and Business Case for LGB&T Inclusion’ report examines economic performance, business performance and individual performance. Key findings include:

  • LGBTI discrimination often goes hand-in-hand with a culture of corrupt practices, a lack of openness and a weak civil society with poorly developed institutions.
  • Companies that support inclusion and diversity are better able to compete for talented employees, and show higher rates of retention.
  • LGBTI inclusion is associated with higher levels of innovation and more effective collaboration and teamwork.
  • Individuals working in open, diverse, inclusive environments have higher levels of engagement and satisfaction, leading to greater productivity.
  • Companies operating in countries with anti-LGBTO legislation face a variety of risks, including risks to employee safety and security, risks of non-compliance, and risks to brand and reputation.
  • Companies not vocally supporting global LGB&T inclusion but promoting their diversity credentials at home may be accused of hypocrisy or ‘pink washing’.
  • In a new survey of UK and US consumer attitudes, nearly half (47.5 percent) would support a boycott of companies working in countries that have anti-gay laws.
  • More than half (52.5 percent) said they would be unlikely to support international development aid going to a country that has anti-gay laws.
  • More than half (52 percent) would be unlikely to work for a company that does business in a country that has anti-gay laws
  • More than half (51 percent) would be unlikely to go on vacation to a country that has anti-gay laws.

To follow up the report, members of the Open For Business coalition will hold global events over the coming 12 months to raise awareness of the business and economic case for LGB&T inclusion.

Randy Berry

Randy Berry, US Department of State

One of the report’s forwards was written by Randy Berry, Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, US Department of State. In a statement to announce the launch of Open For Business, he said:

‘Discriminatory laws are detrimental to business and economic development. They threaten the stability businesses desire, risk the safety of employees and jeopardize business interests all over the world.

‘Companies need to come together to promote policies and work environments that enable them to attract the best talent regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. As our world becomes increasingly interconnected, it is the responsibility of all of us – government, civil society and business – to take a stand against discrimination and injustice.’

Joshua Graff, Senior Director at LinkedIn Europe, Middle East and Africa said, commenting on his firm’s involvement in the project, said, ‘We believe that a diverse workforce has a multitude of benefits for a business and for the individuals.

‘So anything that we can do to encourage diversity for our own team, our clients and our members around the globe is entirely in line with what we’re looking to accomplish. If you consider diversity specifically in terms of LGB&T rights, that’s why we’re part of Open For Business.’

Cynthia Marshall, SVP Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer at AT&T said, ‘Diversity and inclusion have long been a part of AT&T’s culture and operations, and our experience supports the coalition’s finding that successful businesses thrive in diverse and inclusive societies.

‘We support laws that prohibit discrimination everywhere we do business, and we’re proud to be a part of this coalition.’

Open For Business describes itself as an informal coalition that has been developed ‘in dialogue with a number of civil society organizations,’ including the the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Kaleidoscope Trust, the Human Rights Campaign, Stonewall, Out Leadership and OUTstanding, among others.

The Kaleidoscope Trust‘s Executive Director, Felicity Daly, told Gay Star Business that she welcomed the launch of Open For Business.

‘While it has long been clear to the Trust and to our partners around the world that there is an economic cost to the criminalization and persecution of LGBT people, having solid evidence, supported by some of the largest companies in the world, helps us to make that case to governments everywhere.

‘We’re delighted that our Programme Manager, Alistair Stewart, was invited to work with Open for Business to ensure that the perspectives of our international partners are at the very center of this report and are central to the work of Open for Business.’

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