Multinationals play an important role in promoting equality and a culture of respect in the workplace, and this extends to the communities where they operate.

For many CEOs, inclusion of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people is part of their organization’s core values and commitment to preserve equality and human rights for all their people. But it is also a business imperative; when you have a culture of equality, where everyone feels they can be their authentic selves, creative ideas flow, igniting innovation and driving business results.

There have been a range of studies that demonstrate the positive business impact of LGBTI equality and inclusion, as well as the negative repercussions of overlooking this as part of a business strategy. Companies supportive of LGBTI equality and inclusion have significantly higher levels of innovation and creativity, and organizations where LGBTI discrimination is present have higher employee turnover rates and lower levels of productivity.

Researchers have found a correlation between economic development and LGBT inclusion.
Image: Jon Miller, Lucy Parker

To help drive inclusive growth and advance social and economic inclusion for all LGBTI people, seven organizations, including EY and Accenture, formed the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality. Announced this week in Davos, this first-of-its-kind initiative will work in collaboration with the World Economic Forum’s Centre for New Economy and Society to enlist CEOs to implement the UN LGBTI Standards.

This effort will lead to the creation of practical benchmarks, tools and a unifying set of best practices that organizations can then use to accelerate LGBTI equality and inclusion in their workplaces. These tools will also help CEOs navigate challenges that multinationals often face when it comes to advancing LGBTI equality, such as cultural barriers, mobility limitations and legal implications.

So what actions can CEOs take now?

⦁ We encourage CEOs to familiarize themselves with the United Nations LGBTI Standards of Conduct and join the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality to implement these standards within their organizations. The aim is to enlist 50 to 100 CEOs and organizations in this initiative by 2020.

⦁ There needs to be mobilization at the grassroots level in companies, by enabling and sponsoring LGBTI support networks across the organization. These groups support staff and make a statement about the core values of the organization, while offering a practical way to create a positive and lasting change. These networks are also strong forces to help challenge discrimination.

⦁ Businesses should also work to ensure that benefits and rewards at the organization do not consciously or subconsciously support discrimination. While all employment policies need to be LGBTI-friendly, organizations should provide the same level of support to LGBTI individuals as to all other staff, for example, by providing same-sex parental leave.

While these are just a few actions business leaders can take, there’s no question that the outcomes of supporting LGBTI equality and inclusion will be fruitful for their businesses, employees and the communities that exist outside their four walls.

In an age where we’re more socially and politically divided than ever, the role of business in driving inclusive growth has never been more important. When you have an inclusive culture where everyone is treated equally and feels they can be their authentic selves, you can fuel innovation, solve complex challenges and achieve better results.

Our hope is that CEOs feel empowered to take action, and we encourage them to do so by joining the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality so that together we can accelerate LGBTI equality and inclusion in our global workplaces and beyond.