A wave of anti-LGBTQI+ policies, driven by populist movements, continues to rise around the world, threatening many of the rights-protecting victories achieved over the last several decades.
In May, the Human Rights Campaign declared that “2021 officially [became the] worst year in recent history for LGBQI state legislative attacks as [an] unprecedented number of states enact [a] record-shattering number of anti-LGBTQI measures into law.” And that is just in the United States.
2021 has witnessed similar backlashes to LGBTQI+ communities claiming their universal human rights in places like Hungary, Poland, and other parts of Eastern Europe, a region once deemed to be “a world leader on gay rights.”
In the face of this, the world’s leading companies have a tremendous opportunity to stand up and promote rights and protections for their LGBTQI+ employees. A new tool recently launched by a coalition of international organizations, including BSR and the Partnership for Global LGBTQI+ Equality (PGLE), is helping companies to do just that.
While many companies have embedded protections and benefits for their LGBTQI+ employees into their systems, the UN Standards present a framework for companies to go even further—by positioning LGBTQI+ rights as universal human rights and building off the concepts embedded in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Through the implementation of the UN Standards, companies have a path forward, and indeed a responsibility, to promote these universal rights within their spheres of influence—including business partners, governments, and the communities in which they do business.
In September 2021, a coalition of organizations launched the UN LGBTQI+ Standards Gap Analysis Tool (Tool). Partners in this effort include BSR, PGLE, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), and the World Economic Forum (WEF), with the generous support of BCG. The tool is a practical, step-by-step guide designed to help companies navigate the implementation of the UN Standards so it can be used across relevant departments and functions within your company. It is a complimentary and strictly confidential online platform that helps companies assess current policies and programs, highlight areas for improvement, and identify opportunities to set future corporate goals and targets when implementing the Standards.
Furthermore, the tool can provide companies with a roadmap to further align their practices, policies, and procedures in line with the UN Standards of Conduct.
We believe the UN Standards and our supportive tool are the authoritative frameworks for businesses to respect the human rights of LGBTQI+ people across their value chains—including employees, those of their business partners, and LGBTQI+ communities worldwide. It is also a catalyst for determining action and support for companies to use in house and provides an opportunity for DEI leaders to articulate the importance of providing enduring improvements for LGBTQI+ community internally and within the communities in which they operate and provide services and products to.
We encourage BSR members and beyond to support the Standards and use this tool to guide them on this very important and worthwhile journey.