UK: Not just for Pride – top firms urged to back LGBT+ rights

People attend the annual Pride in London parade, in London, Britain July 6, 2019 – Image: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Many UK firms adopted rainbow branding for Pride month, but one in three of Britain’s 100 biggest companies did not mention LGBT+ policies in their annual reports, research showed on Friday.

Just 2% of FTSE 100 company reports referred to staff LGBT+ role models, who are visibly out or a vocal ally, despite 17% changing their corporate logos on Twitter for Pride in June, said INvolve, a consultancy promoting workplace equality.

“It’s really important that companies demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion at every opportunity,” Suki Sandhu, chief executive of INvolve, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in emailed comments.

“They need to openly talk about their support for the LGBT+ community so that it becomes embedded in the fabric of their business.”

Workplace diversity is coming under the spotlight in Britain, with 35% of LGBT employees hiding their identities at work, according to LGBT+ advocacy group Stonewall.

Almost 4 million people – or 6% of the population – in Britain identify as LGBT+, and surveys suggest that more diverse workplaces make good business sense.

A growing number of companies are targeting the $4 trillion LGBT global consumer market.

As more than 60 countries held Pride parades this year, Swedish furniture retailer, IKEA, released a rainbow version of its popular canvas bag, and Calvin Klein sold 56 pound ($71) jock straps and boxers in five Pride-themed colours.

Listerine mouthwash and Absolut Vodka were on sale in rainbow bottles, and Disney created rainbow Mickey Mouse ears.

Firms also need to prove their commitment to inclusion with anti-discrimination policies, benefits for LGBT+ partners and by addressing pay gaps, business experts said.

“Investors are getting much more interested in asking the right questions on this,” said Iain Anderson, head of Cicero Group, a political risk consultancy.

“Serious institutional money is moving towards companies which are ‘leaning in’ as opposed to those who do nothing.”

Britain’s Trades Union Congress, which represents more than 5.5 million employees, said in May that seven out of 10 LGBT+ staff reported being sexually harassed at work.

The INvolve analysis showed progress – as only half of FTSE 100 companies mentioned LGBT+ matters in their annual reports five years ago – but there is more work to be done, said Ian Johnson, chief executive of Out Now consultancy.

“Companies need to step back from Pride month and look at the year as a whole,” said Johnson, whose firm works with businesses on LGBT+ issues.

“Support for LGBT+ people is not a temporary thing; it’s something you need to be committed to 24/7, 365 days a year.”

-Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh -Thomson Reuters Foundation

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