Corporate respect for LGBTI people

Anna Triponel

May 17, 2021
Our key takeaway: Ensuring respect for the rights of LGBTI people (employees, suppliers, customers and beyond) requires companies to use the lens of the UN Guiding Principles—but with careful consideration for the particular risks and challenges faced by LGBTI people globally and in specific contexts.

With the backdrop of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biophobia on Monday, Shift developed a report for companies outlining some of the key considerations, potential pitfalls and actions to take in order to ensure respect for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals.

  • Be careful to avoid the pitfalls and shortcomings of current approaches to prevent and address risks to LGBTI people. These include addressing LGBTI people as “a single, homogeneous group” without considering the ways in which the lived experiences of individuals can differ significantly; relying “on the leadership of a small group or individual(s) within the company” without seeking out perspectives from other affected people; “pink washing” or using opportunities to express support for LGBTI people and causes as revenue-generating activities; and implementing stakeholder engagement approaches and solutions without proper risk assessment and consultation to ensure the safety and well-being of affected stakeholders.
  • Implement robust human right due diligence approaches, but know that there are additional considerations that companies will need to consider in this context. It “is important for companies to also understand that through their actions, omissions and business relationships, they may be exacerbating risks that people are already facing on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and/or sex characteristics.” What’s more, “[e]ngaging with affected stakeholders is one of the cornerstones of quality human rights due diligence.” This engagement must be carried out in a way that takes the particular risks and concerns of LGBTI stakeholders into account. For example, consider whether sensitive information about gender and sexual orientation is actually necessary to capture, how consultation can be done in a way that protects the physical security and emotional well-being of LGBTI people—recognizing their particularly vulnerable status in some contexts, and implementing effective grievance mechanisms that are safe, accessible and protective of sensitive information.
  • How companies can take action: Shift outlines a series of recommendations, including collaborating with peers to share learnings, challenges and build leverage to use voice and influence to advocate for the rights of LGBTI people; seeking outside expert help to avoid putting pressure on LGBTI stakeholders to take on the burden of the work; selecting the right language for the right context; starting with a broader conversation about discrimination and bias as an entry point to avoid stigmatizing LGBTI people; and, if needed, using the business case where it can spur further conversation or action.

For more, see Shift, Beyond Pride: The Rights of LGBTI People and the Corporate Responsibility to Respect(May 2021)

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