How global companies are leading the way on LGBTI inclusion

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein is the United Nations high commissioner for human rights

The world is seeing a worrying backlash against the freedoms of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people. While great progress has been made towards inclusion in many countries, millions of people are living with the threat of arrest, harassment or physical violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

This is a challenge for global businesses. Increasingly, companies are working to curb discrimination and promote diversity in their workplaces, and this becomes difficult in countries that are hostile to LGBTI people.

Consequently, many Western companies do well at championing LGBTI equality at home, but less well abroad.

Other companies have found their voice in relatively supportive environments, but stay silent in contexts where the rights of LGBTI people are challenged.

There is often a dissonance between the values expressed by the leadership of a business and the actions (or inactions) of that business on the ground.

US-based coffee chain Starbucks was caught in the crossfire in Indonesia after religious leaders called for a consumer boycott in protest at the company’s public support for LGBTI causes.

With its share price falling, Starbucks’ local franchise responded with a statement in Bahasa Indonesia that was roundly criticised by many activists as an apparent attempt to distance the brand from the local LGBTI community.

Starbucks’ dilemma in Indonesia is a familiar one for corporate executives around the world. Statements of support for LGBTI equality may ring hollow if they are not seen to be consistently implemented. To employees and consumers it may even start to sound like hypocrisy. After all, values are not really values if they are selectively applied. Read more via City AM