Companies must commit to workplace equality, say senior business leaders in Davos

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.
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.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (REUTERS) - Companies must commit to equality in the workplace or miss out on millennial LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and others) talent, global business leaders warned on Tuesday (Jan 22) at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Mr 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.

Mr  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 UN 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 Ms Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which backs the programme.

"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 (S$135 billion) a year.

Open, inclusive and diverse societies were more innovative, in turn leading to greater economic growth, said Ms 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 organisations 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 decriminalisation, the opportunity is real and urgent."