UN LGBTI Standards of Conduct: a practical guide for companies
21 October 2019
In 2017 the United Nations Free & Equal Campaign launched their LGBTI Standards of Conduct for Business, a landmark document setting out key principles businesses should follow to advance LGBT+ inclusion globally in the workplace and beyond. Since then, over 220 businesses across the globe have expressed their support for the standards, representing a global coalition of businesses committed to improving the standard of LGBT+ rights.
The ambition of the standards is lofty, external advocacy is not always possible in difficult regions, processes, bureaucracy and the ‘unconverted’ can prove difficult barriers to overcome in the fight for LGBT+ equality. While many have expressed support for the Standards, others, in good faith have not felt able to due to some of these limitations, despite their ardent commitments to LGBT+ inclusion.
In 2018, we at INvolve set out to operationalise the standards, leveraging knowledge gained from 8 years of working with corporates to advance diversity and inclusion not just for the LGBT+ community, but other marginalized groups as well. Throughout that time, we have built an enormous bank of best practice knowledge from global organisations, and now seek to share this openly with the wider business community in the hope that working together towards global LGBT+ equality, we might get there more quickly.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing some of our own best practice on the Standards here on our website and across our social media, leading up to the launch of the full guidance. To register your interest in receiving the full guidance, sign up to our newsletter below.
Today, we’re sharing our best practice tips on one of the trickier of the Standards to approach, ‘Respect Privacy’, which upon first glance seems to challenge much of the best practice those who are part of more advanced organisations in their D&I journies may have come to appreciate. Data collection is constantly called upon as the be all end all of an effective D&I strategy and, indeed, it is essential. One aspect of this which many companies struggle with however, is variation across jurisdictions in the legality of both collecting such data, and being openly out in the first place. In order to ‘respect privacy’ some companies ignore data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity (those beyond binary male, female at least) entirely.
However, monitoring your people data and conducting regular audits on the experiences and development of your talent is fundamental to having effective interventions to eliminate any structural or organisational biases experienced by diverse talent at your organisation. However, people must trust that data will not be used irresponsibly, distributed outside of essential functions and that it will be protected, confidential and anonymised. Ensuring self-identification is not mandatory for your employees is integral, but every effort should be made to explain why self-identification is important to the development of the organisation and any initiatives, development programmes or interventions intended to ameliorate disparities in experience for diverse talent.
For global businesses, especially those operating in jurisdictions where homosexuality is criminalised, transgender or gender non-binary people not recognised or protected, or the social stigma around LGBT+ status is harmful, every effort should be made by the organisation to protect those individuals and to ensure they feel safe and able to be themselves within the four walls of your business.
- Encourage self-identification of LGBT+ status and gender identity, ensure these options are inclusive and that trust is built in the process using communications campaigns and involving the voices of the most senior leaders in the business.
- Design and implement interventions based on your people data to maximise their impact and ameliorate disparities in experience and any structural biases in your organisation
- Consult with local legal teams or law firms globally to understand what people data can and can’t be collected in each jurisdiction you operate in and to understand local laws concerning LGBT+ rights
- Ensure any people data you collect is confidential and secure and that information related to LGBT+ status for any individual is not released or communicated without their express permission
- Ensure when LGBT+ individuals are travelling to jurisdictions where LGBT+ status is criminalised, stigmatised or presents a danger to the individual, they are prepared and understand local laws and that their status is not revealed without their express permission