Business Leadership in Defending Inclusive Societies and LGBTI Rights at Davos 2020

January 15, 2020
  • Salah Husseini portrait

    Salah Husseini

    Director, Human Rights, BSR

Despite recent progress from Taiwan, which became the first country in Asia to pass marriage equality, to Botswana, where a colonial-era ban on same-sex relations was struck down, the ILGA World’s 2019 Map shows the breadth of discrimination currently facing LGBTI people across the globe. Nearly 70 countries still criminalize homosexuality, unconscionably very few countries legally recognize the identity of trans people, and only a handful protect the rights of intersex people. Tragically, for many LGBTI people around the world, homophobia, fear, and hate remain a daily reality. 

Next week, the World Economic Forum will host its 50th Annual Meeting, bringing together the world’s top leaders from the private sector, government, civil society, media, and academia to “address the most pressing issues on the global agenda.” The Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality (PGLE) is pleased that the economic inclusion discussion in Davos will shine a light on the discrimination faced by millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people worldwide every day—more than fifty years after Stonewall, the “birth” of the gay liberation movement. 

Recognizing that the power of business could be leveraged to advance LGBTI inclusivity, in 2016, a group of companies organized a meeting in Davos that, according to UN Human Rights, “was a turning point in a long-overdue conversation among prominent business leaders and activists about practical measures companies can and should take to tackle LGBTI discrimination.” That conversation led to the UN Standards of Conduct for Business Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, & Intersex People (UN Standards), issued by the UN in September 2017. 

From local jurisdictions to national assemblies, thought-leading companies have worked with a broad range of stakeholders across the world to fight homophobia, fear, and hate and to advance human rights for members of the LGBTI community. 

That meeting four years ago is but one of many examples of the key role that the business community has played in advancing LGBTI equality, diversity, and inclusion globally. From local jurisdictions to national assemblies, thought-leading companies have worked with a broad range of stakeholders across the world to fight homophobia, fear, and hate and to advance human rights for members of the LGBTI community. 

Like the UN Standards, the idea for forming the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality was born in Davos—but a few years earlier—when some of the companies that later became our Founding Members organized an LGBTI roundtable discussion.  Over the years, the breadth of the Davos LGBTI discussions grew and, since 2015, have been part of the Forum’s official Annual Meeting program. 

Through the leadership, commitment, and support of our Founding Member companies, PGLE was formally launched by the Forum in Davos last year as a project of its Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society. In addition to being a project of the World Economic Forum, PGLE is also working in collaboration with UN Human Rights and our civil society partners, Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International. 

To quote in part from the Forum’s press release in announcing the creation of PGLE:

“Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity not only violates universal basic human rights, it also adversely impacts the long-term economic prospects of individuals, businesses and countries. A 2017 UNAIDS study estimated the global cost of LGBTI discrimination at $100 billion per year. Businesses have an important role to play in respecting and protecting human rights through fostering workplace inclusion for LGBTI people.”

Simply put, PGLE is a coalition of organizations committed to leveraging their individual and collective advocacy to accelerate LGBTI equality and inclusion in the workplace and in the broader communities in which they operate. PGLE member companies recognize and take responsibility not just for the impact they have on their employees' lives but also on the broader communities in which they operate.

If you are in Davos next week, we hope you will join us for a discussion of “LGBTI Rights and the Role of the Private Sector” on January 21, 2020, from 7:30-9 a.m. at the SDG Tent (Ocean Room), 139 Promenade, Davos. Please RSVP here

We look forward to seeing you in Davos. If you’re unable to join us for the event, you can tune in to the livestream on the PGLE site. In addition, if you’re interested in learning more about leveraging the power of business to advance LGBTI equality, please feel free to connect with us.

Live from the World Economic Forum 2020: LGBTI Rights and the Role of the Private Sector


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