HR · 4 July 2018

Do we still need a “business case” to promote LGBT+ inclusion in our workforces?

The panel explore the need for an LGBT inclusion "business case"
The panel explore the need for an LGBT+ inclusion “business case”

There is a business case for LGBT+ inclusion, and consumers are ready to put their money where their mouths are.

According to the Brunswick Open for Business report, 47.5% of US and UK consumers would support a boycott of companies working in countries that have anti-gay laws. In addition, 42.5% would be unlikely to buy a product from a country with anti-gay laws.

Furthermore, around 52% would be unlikely to work for a company that does business in a country with anti-gay laws. This suggests that there is a business case for LGBT+ inclusion, even in terms of recruiting top talent and employee retention.

This is not to mention the culture benefits that a business can gain by fostering an open culture where employees feel free to be themselves.

But all of this is treading old ground – there is a business case for LGBT+ inclusion, but do we still need one? Haven’t we got past this point?

Pride and Prejudice

At the recent Economist Pride and Prejudice event, a panel of experts discussed how companies are redefining the business case for LGBT+ inclusion.

The panel consisted of: Alison Brittain, chief executive, Whitbread; Vittorio Colao, chief executive, Vodafone; Sue Whalley, chief operations officer, Royal Mail; and Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general, CBI.

Brittain argued that the business case was very clear:

“I think the business case has been discussed long and hard, and the business case for diversity and diversity in thinking in organisations is pretty clear. I genuinely think we’ve almost passed that point of having to prove that diversity in business gives better outcomes,” she said.

For Colao, it is fundamentally an ethical issue – because although the business case exists, what would we do differently if it didn’t?

“I am tired of this business case thing…I mean if the business case was not true, would that be a good excuse for discrimination?

“Unfortunately, in the world, we see negative forces…we have to stand up, we have to resist… we need to stand up for the right things, and of course we have to do it in the smart way,” he said.

What are we trying to build?

A lot of this boils down to trying to create the right sort of company culture.

“The tone from the top I think is really important,” said Whalley.

“Diversity in all of its forms, whether it’s LGBT+, gender, disability, parents and carers, young people, older workers…our board talks about diversity, our executive team talks about diversity.”

Essentially, getting this culture shift right at the top of your organisation can filter down, and can make your employees feel more comfortable and included at work.

“For us it really is about culture change, and feeling included in the workplace. Feeling that you can be treated with dignity and respect when you come to work,” said Whalley.

The panel were all optimistic about the state of LGBT+ inclusion in workforces of the future. In fact, according to Fairbairn, “we are in the middle of a quiet revolution on this”.

For example, one encouraging thing she has noticed from speaking to companies is how many are being “born inclusive”.

In this respect, micro businesses and startups really have the edge, because there are no chains to break free from. They can form their company culture based on a more inclusive ethos, right from the word go.

“The new companies of the new generation, they’re not even questioning this, so I think it’s an exciting time,” she said.

Ahead of London Pride 2018, Business Advice is publishing a series of articles celebrating the role of the LGBT+ community in UK workplaces and informing employers of best practice for inclusion.

Workplace transphobia: 1 in 3 employers won’t hire a transgender candidate

Preparing your workplace for a transgender employee

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.


 
TAGS:

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Business Advice. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

Q&A

If you’ve found the article above useful, but have a more detailed and bespoke question, then please feel free to submit a query to our expert. We at Business Advice will get in contact with them on your behalf and arrange for a personalised response. These questions and answers will then be collated on the site for any other readers who have similar queries.

Ask a question

Business development