Foreword: New Global Champions: Why fast growing companies from emerging markets are are embracing LGBT+ inclusion

This is the foreword I wrote to the important report by Open for Business and BCG that was released at FICCI Delhi on November 18, 2019. Please download the entire report from the Open for Business website.

There is a growing body of evidence that shows diverse and inclusive societies foster an environment that enables businesses to thrive and economies to prosper. By bringing together different groups of people, societies cultivate an ecosystem where ideas are exchanged, creativity flows and value is unlocked through innovation. Diversity comes in various forms and there remains significant progress to be made for one particular group – the LGBT+ community.

As economies around the world continue to grow, it is encouraging to see that many are changing their laws to be inclusive of the LGBT+ community – India, together with Angola, Belize, Bhutan, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nauru, Palau, Seychelles as well as Trinidad and Tobago, have decriminalized same-sex acts in the last five years. However, many countries remain unfriendly for LGBT+ people, which creates growing tension for companies headquartered there that are looking to adopt best practices on LGBT+ inclusion as they grow and expand across borders.

One of the most common concerns emerging-market companies have on becoming more LGBT+ inclusive is the potential negative impacts on their reputation and financial performance. Companies are worried that open support for LGBT+ inclusion could trigger a backlash from their consumers. The findings from this report show otherwise. An analysis of the high-potential emerging-market companies found that LGBT+ inclusion enables these companies to tap into global markets and supply chains more effectively, without seeing any negative financial impacts.

Against today’s backdrop of intense competition, diversity and inclusion are now essential if companies and societies want to foster sustainable growth. This is especially true for emerging-market companies as they continue to grow beyond their home markets and compete with their global competitors. Furthermore, consumer and employee expectations of businesses are changing and a narrow focus on serving just shareholders is no longer enough. Businesses are increasingly seen as having a responsibility to the societies and communities in which they operate.

Similar to how our 2018 Godrej white paper on transgender inclusion serves as a public resource for other companies to use, this report presents compelling evidence for emerging-market companies to initiate or continue their LGBT+ inclusion journeys.

More importantly, this report sends a strong message to businesses headquartered in emerging markets. Each of them has a role to play in creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce, and this will foster the environment needed for businesses to thrive. Businesses need to take a stand and engage with their stakeholders, especially civil society organizations and policymakers, to work together because LGBT+ inclusion will ultimately benefit everyone, not only the LGBT+ community.