Campaign launched highlighting economic case for pro-LGBT rights


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Open for Business ‘pulls together data that makes the case for the LGBT community in the workplace’


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Fourteen global businesses, including Google and Royal Bank of Scotland, have launched a campaign to put forward the economic case for ending discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender individuals.

Launched at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York, the Open for Business campaign published research showing economies, companies and individuals perform better in societies that support LGBT employees.

The report by Open for Business spells out that nearly 80 countries criminalise consensual, adult same-sex activity, or use other laws to marginalise and persecute LGBT individuals.

The initiative, which also includes technology group IBM, consultancy EY and law firm Linklaters and backed by businesses that employ 1.3 million people globally, comes after the controversy sparked by the US state of Indiana in March, when it backed legislation that appeared to allow discrimination against the LBGT community. The row prompted Apple’s boss Tim Cook, who spoke out last year about being gay, to call for a rethink of such laws that have been passed in 20 US states.

In an editorial in the Washington Post at the time, Cook said: “Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas [which also accepted the legislation], we will never tolerate discrimination.”

Deborah Sherry, UK and Ireland partnership director at Google, said she expected more businesses sign up to Open For Business. The group also includes PR company Brunswick, Standard Chartered bank, financial companies American Express and Mastercard, the McKinsey consultancy, news service Thomson Reuters and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin group.

It is not advocating specific actions against counties or companies which discriminate against LGBT individuals. Sherry said: “It’s specifically to bring together data and make the business case that if you include the the LGBT community in society, if people can bring their whole selves to work, you attract better people, it lowers [business] costs…its makes them more productive and more entrepreneural and so the company has better output.

“Clearly the LBGT community has got various states of rights and inclusion in society, but there is still much to be done. And change often happens from the ground up so Open for Business is an initiative to pull together the data that makes the case for the LBGT community in the workplace in the same way that has been made for gender and minorities.”

The report includes analysis by the Harvard Business Review, which shows that companies with greater diversity perform better than those which do not. The research found that employees at more diverse companies are 45% more likely to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70% more likely to report that the firm had entered a new market.

The report cites reactions to companies in countries where there are laws discriminating against LBGT workers. It raises India, where in 2013 a law decriminalising gay sex was rescinded. Business such as IBM, Royal Bank of Scotland, Cisco, Citigroup, Google, Dell, Novell, General Electric and Microsoft met at the Bangalore campus of Goldman Sachs to discuss strategies to protect their LGBT employees.

It also cited research by MV Lee Badgett, a professor of economics and director of the Center for Public Policy & Administration at the University of Massachusetts, estimating the impact of discrimination on India’s GDP as up to 1.4% of economic output.


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