Sustainability and queer: When two worlds collide

MONDAY, MAY 29, 2023

Much progress has been made in terms of human rights for women and those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer/Questioning, and other diverse sexual orientations (LGBTIQ+).

When it comes to gender equality at workplace, a number of corporates nearly entirely focus on heterosexual, cisgender women, and ignoring the issues of other genders and social minorities. This is truly not sustainable.

We are about to celebrate Pride month in June. This global event is an annual celebration and recognition of the LGBTIQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer/Questioning, and other diverse sexual orientations and gender identities) community. Business sector also commemorates the history and contributions of LGBTIQ+ individuals, as well as serves as a platform for advocacy and raising awareness about LGBTIQ+ rights and issues at workplace.

Modern business organizations recognize and embrace the diversity, equality and inclusion of LGBTIQ+ employees, stakeholders, and other queer individuals in society and within organizations. This can be seen from corporate’s involvement in creating an environment that is respectful, supportive, and accept of people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions. Embracing LGBTIQ+ diversity often includes policies and practices from recruitment to retirement.

Sustainability and queer: When two worlds collide

Unfortunately, some efforts from the Thai public sector to promote equality in the workplace actually serve to hide discrimination against LGBTIQ+ workers. The LGBTIQ+ community's issues have their roots in the very systems that anti-discrimination legislation is designed to strengthen. This means refusing an intersectional approach that might question hetero/masculine elite men and other forms of privilege, and focusing solely on sexism and heterosexism as forms of discrimination.

When we examine certain ESG standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), issues related to LGBTIQ+ may not appear outstandingly, when compared with human rights, carbon emission, EPR or waste management issues.  Under GRI 401 (employment), there are some opportunities for business organisations to address the topic of gender diversity under employment. This includes an organisation’s approach to employment or job creation, that is, an organisation’s approach to hiring, recruitment, retention and related practices, and the working conditions it provides. If the concept of DE&I can be integrated in all processes with corporate information on DE&I practices, it certainly will be helpful for the organizations to prove their sustainable status.   In other words, the adoption of non-discrimination policies by companies can help ensure that individuals are not discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sustainability and queer: When two worlds collide

Under GRI 405, diversity and equal opportunity issues become the key topic to explore by companies. Most companies state in their sustainability report that they support diversity and promotes equal opportunities irrespective of gender, ethnic origin, age, religion and nationality. It is understandable that most organisations focus on men and women at work, in the leadership roles, and their performance and payment. Issues related to LGBTIQ+ employees seem to be the last choice by some corporates.

The GRI standard encourages firms to report on their non-discrimination policies, diversity in the workplace, and efforts to promote inclusion and equal opportunity. This includes policies and actions that pertain to the LGBTIQ+ community, such as regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, programs to promote diversity, and assistance for LGBTIQ+ personnel to progress in their career.

Leave no one behind (LNOB) is the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The corporate world does have a responsibility of this commitment.  If we are willing to celebrate Pride month with the LGBTIQ+ community once a year, we can surely find it in its heart to support DE&I at work and promote justice and sustainable work with members of the LGBTIQ+ community every day of the year.