Beyond Corporate Social Responsibility: Working with Business on SOGI Rights

07 December 2018

We need to be bold in our approach to equality and inclusion when it comes to protecting, promoting and advancing Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) rights.

That was the message delivered by speakers and attendees, who had gathered at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights for an event hosted by the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions.

Recognising the power of National Human Rights Institutions, business and NGOs to bring visibility to the issue of SOGI rights is vital in order to tackle discrimination and persecution of LGBTI individuals and communities. Being bold isn’t always about being loud, and it is important to understand how and when we use our voice in a way that does not risk the safety, respect and dignity of the people we help. The discussions between attendees identified that being bold can also mean creating the space for conversation; building stronger and more innovative partnerships; holding decision-makers to account; using our leverage and reputation, and taking action through collective advocacy.

Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque from the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh commended CFNHRI for its aim to “uphold the rights of sex and gender minorities in the Business and Human Rights discourse”, before presenting the current work of the Commission on equality, social justice and human dignity for vulnerable groups such as trans and third gender. Recently the Commission has consulted on legal gender recognition, tackling misconceptions and discrimination, and have proposed for a new anti-discrimination law.

In her speech to attendees Leanne MacMillan, Director of International Campaigns at Stonewall, suggested businesses can help knit together the expertise of both National Human Rights Institutions and Civil Society Organisations, and move past traditional Corporate Social Responsibility activity to implement more robust and long-term approaches to LGBTI rights. She also introduced Stonewall’s Global Workplace Equality Index, a benchmarking tool for industry performance in the area of LGBTI rights, which enables them to make progress toward equality wherever in the world they operate.

Sometimes, the most meaningful advancements for the rights of LGBTI people and communities happen behind the scenes through conversations with individuals and organisations who have the knowledge and power to make a difference. This point was emphasised by Director of International Relations at Google, Ross LaJeunesse, who also stated the importance of inclusive and accepting workplaces that encourage employees to be their true selves without shame or fear of discrimination or harassment. Beyond being the right thing to do, he said, creating such work environments encourage other businesses follow suit in order to attract more diverse expertise and talent.

Closing the session, David Isaac Chair of the Commonwealth Forum and the EHRC, remarked that he hoped this event would serve to encourage and intensify future engagement and partnerships on this issue.

Read David Isaac’s blog from the event here

For more information on this event, future engagements, or more information on the Forum please contact Holly –

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