United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein today launched an unprecedented set of global standards to support the business community in tackling discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex people.
Addressing an audience of business leaders, activists and journalists at Microsoft’s New York City headquarters, Zeid called on the private sector to play its part in promoting LGBTI inclusion in the workplace and beyond. “Social change requires the active involvement of all parts of society – including, critically, the business community,” he said. “The decisions that companies take – whether in respect of human resources, investment, supply chains, even marketing – can have a real and, in some cases, profound impact on human rights.”
Drawing on good practice from around the world, the new standards set out actions companies can take to protect the rights of LGBTI individuals. These include eliminating workplace discrimination, making sure business operations do not contribute to discrimination against customers, suppliers or members of the public, and working with business partners to address discriminatory practices up and down the supply chain. They also encourage companies to stand up for the rights of LGBTI people in the countries where they operate – including through advocacy and support for local organizations.
“There is growing evidence that, besides being the right thing to do, standing up for equal rights for LGBTI people is also in the private sector’s commercial interest,” the High Commissioner noted. “Excluding any group slows us all down. Eliminating discrimination is the key to unlocking talent and maximizing productivity.”
Welcoming the standards, Microsoft President Brad Smith said: “While important strides have been made to advance LGBTI rights, there are still gaps. Corporate standards, set by the private sector, can help companies articulate their values and stand up for the rights of LGBTI individuals in the workplace and communities in which they do business.”
The Standards of Conduct build on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. They are the product of a year-long process of consultations facilitated by the UN Human Rights Office and the Institute for Human Rights and Business, including regional meetings with leading business representatives in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Among companies that have already indicated their support are Accenture, Baker McKenzie, BNP Paribas, The Coca-Cola Company, Deutsche Bank, EDF, EY, Gap Inc., Godrej, IKEA Group, Microsoft, Oath, Orange, SAP, and Spotify.
The five standards:
- RESPECT the human rights of their LGBTI workers, customers and members of the public
- ELIMINATE workplace discrimination against LGBTI employees
- SUPPORT LGBTI employees at work
- PREVENT discrimination and related abuses against LGBTI customers, suppliers and distributors – and insist that suppliers do the same
- STAND UP for the human rights of LGBTI people in the communities where companies do business