Big breakthrough for business as UN Human Rights Office unveils global standards

Sander van 't Noordende, Group Chief Executive Products at Accenture

The U.N. Human Rights Office has just released standards of conduct for businesses around the world on how to treat lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex employees, suppliers, and customers. I truly think this is groundbreaking and shows how far forward we have moved.

When I think back to when I first joined Accenture 30 years ago, I was lucky enough to work and live in my home country, The Netherlands. At that time, we were ahead of the rest of the world and already had some of the critical benefits around pension and healthcare for same-sex relationships. But like the rest of the world, it was not easy to find LGBTI people who were out, and almost impossible to find role models. But things have improved.

Fast forward to today and what a difference 30 years makes. Recently, I was talking to a trans woman at Accenture who just went through her transition. She told me how supportive both her colleagues and Accenture have been and continue to be. Then there was the young graduate who told me recently: “I checked on the Accenture website what the Accenture stance is around LGBTI and that was one of the key reasons I decided to join.” These are the standards and working environment that every business should encourage.

So, there has been plenty to celebrate. But back in January when the High Commissioner and I met at Davos during our LGBTI panel, we felt it was appropriate to ask the question ‘Are LGBTI rights going backwards?’ All of the panelists agreed there are some worrying trends appearing and we cannot afford to be complacent about the rate of positive change. Despite these worrying signs, this announcement of standards by the UN would suggest there is an opportunity to do more to harness change and help businesses take the right steps and measures on LGBTI equality and rights.

‘But why will it make a difference’, many will ask, ‘what is the need?’ Well I believe that most businesses want to do the right thing for LGBTI equality, but may not be sure exactly how to go about it. This is particularly a challenge in parts of the world where human rights abuses are prevalent. Having clear Standards of Conduct helps because they present the case for inclusion and equality in a very clear way, in both human and economic terms.  Read more via Linkedin