United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein today launched an unprecedented set of global standards to support the business community in tackling discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex people. The standards were developed with assistance from the Institute for Human Rights and Business. The Standards of Conduct build on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Zeid called on the private sector to play its part in promoting LGBTI inclusion in the workplace and beyond. “Social change requires the active involvement of all parts of society – including, critically, the business community,” he said. “The decisions that companies take – whether in respect of human resources, investment, supply chains, even marketing – can have a real and, in some cases, profound impact on human rights.”

Drawing on good practice from around the world, the new standards set out actions companies can take to protect the rights of LGBTI individuals. These include eliminating workplace discrimination, making sure business operations do not contribute to discrimination against customers, suppliers or members of the public, and working with business partners to address discriminatory practices up and down the supply chain. They also encourage companies to stand up for the rights of LGBTI people in the countries where they operate – including through advocacy and support for local organizations.

Baker McKenzie is working hard to further align their Diversity & Inclusion practices with the UN's Standards of Conduct. The Firm was an early adopter of measures to promote LGBTI equality in the workplace, and has been recognised for its efforts by a number of bodies, including the Human Rights Campaign Foundation 2017 Corporate Equality Index, who named the Firm as a "Best Place to Work" in the US for LGBT equality. Stonewall also ranked the Firm 7th on their list of Top 100 Employers, an annual audit of workplace culture for LGBT staff in the UK.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Baker McKenzie Partner Harry Small, Chair of the Firm's Global LGBT+ Business Resource Group said, "We believe that diversity within our firm makes us stronger and that all of our people in all of our offices deserve respect, protection from harassment in the workplace, support and equal treatment. We also recognize that as a firm we still have more work to do, so we are delighted that this set of global standards have been developed, and we echo the UN's call for everyone to play their part in promoting an inclusive workplace."

“There is growing evidence that, besides being the right thing to do, standing up for equal rights for LGBTI people is also be in the private sector’s commercial interest,” the High Commissioner noted. “Excluding any group slows us all down. Eliminating discrimination is the key to unlocking talent and maximizing productivity.”

The Standards of Conduct build on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. They are the product of a year-long process of consultations facilitated by the UN Human Rights Office and the Institute for Human Rights and Business, including regional meetings with leading business representatives in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Among companies that have already indicated their support are Accenture, Baker McKenzie, BNP Paribas, The Coca-Cola Company, EDF, EY, Gap Inc., Godrej, IKEA Group, Microsoft and SAP. 

The five standards:

  • RESPECT the human rights of their LGBTI workers, customers and members of the public
  • ELIMINATE workplace discrimination against LGBTI employees
  • SUPPORT LGBTI employees at work
  • PREVENT discrimination and related abuses against LGBTI customers, suppliers and distributors – and insist that suppliers do the same
  • STAND UP for the human rights of LGBTI people in the communities where companies do business

In the coming months, the standards will be presented at a series of planned launch events, including in Mumbai (12 October), London (30 October), Hong Kong (14 November), Geneva (29 November) and Melbourne (5 December - sponsored by Baker McKenzie).

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