The Channels of Influence

How companies can promote LGBT+ inclusive societies

Over the past few years, it has become increasingly clear that there is the potential for corporates to use levers of influence at the global level to proactively support LGBT+ inclusion in every country they operate in. Many companies understand this and are beginning to act on it. They have explicitly expressed support for the UN LGBTI Standards of Conduct for Business and have joined Open For Business to collectively act to promote LGBT+ inclusive societies in some of the most challenging countries around the world.

Taking action on LGBT+ inclusion in the public sphere is difficult. These actions need to be responsible for the company’s brand, clients and employees and they need to be grounded in local realities of LGBT+ people on the ground. This report provides this guidance for action. The report’s framework identifies five Channels of Influence that companies can use to advance LGBT+ rights in every country they operate in.


The Stakeholders

Each Channel of Influence comes with a set of stakeholders that companies can engage with in different ways, in different contexts. Download the report more information on best practices and case studies on each stakeholder.

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Companies can emphasize the importance of LGBT+ inclusion throughout their value chains – and create advocates globally.

  1. Suppliers and distributors

  2. Joint Venture Partners

  3. Franchisees

  4. Consumers

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Companies can use their financial and investment leverage to make clear that LGBT+ inclusion is a priority for their business.

  1. Investors (asset owners and managers)

  2. Financial services

  3. Direct investment

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Companies can use their access to and relationships with the public sector to engage in dialogue about the economic and business importance of LGBT+ inclusion.

  1. Regulators, Government, and Legislators

  2. Judiciary

  3. National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs)

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Companies can utilize their resources, skills, and knowledge to bolster the efforts of civil society working on LGBT+ inclusion.

  1. Communities

  2. NGOs

  3. Media

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Companies can work with established organisations that speak for the private sector to elevate the importance of LGBT+ inclusive societies.

  1. Chambers of Commerce

  2. Trade Unions

  3. Professional Bodies and Industry Bodies


The Principles for Acting in the Public Sphere

Acting in the public sphere can be very helpful for LGBT+ people all over the world, but there are certain guidelines companies should keep in mind when taking action. We consulted LGBT+ activists around the world for this report and how companies can safely and successfully support their work. The following principles are their recommendations to companies:

  1. Do no harm.

    This is a guiding mantra of organisations that are concerned with human rights and social issues and requires an open and ongoing dialogue with civil society organisations representing the communities that will be impacted by the actions.

  2. Nothing about us without us.

    Any advocacy undertaken on behalf of LGBT+ communities should respect the self-determination of those communities and should ensure the full and direct participation of those representing them

  3. Never assume.

    The context of LGBT+ inclusion can be complex and easily misunderstood by those outside of the community. Civil society organisations are deeply embedded in local contexts and can help accurately identify what aims business can strive for.

  4. Locally led, globally supported.

    Actions in support of LGBT+ inclusion should be led by local senior executives of a company, with support from the global leadership and a clear worldwide commitment to LGBT+ inclusion.

  5. The long view.

    Prioritise creating sustainable mechanisms for continued dialogue across stakeholders on LGBT+ inclusion, rather than specific near-term outcomes. In other words, don’t “win the battle and lose the war”.


What are LGBT+ activists saying?

If companies move together as a coalition and build a real relationship with local actors to learn the local context and better understand what is feasible, they can reach positive changes in a short amount of time.
— Melinda Miklós, WeAreOpen, Hungary
It is a security challenge for activists in Egypt and Sudan to reach out to businesses, as we don’t know who to trust. Outreach from the private sector and ongoing dialogue would help dispel that security concern.
— Noor Sultan, Bedayaa, Egypt/Sudan
Companies have a huge opportunity to advance LGBT+ inclusion in Lebanon. Activists welcome companies reaching out to start a dialogue; we can help them understand what is possible and what is not.
— Georges Aziz, Arab Foundation for Freedoms, Lebanon
Civil society has the information but lacks the power. Companies have the power but lack the deep knowledge to effectively act in support of LGBT+ inclusion. Activists in Nigeria welcome an open dialogue with businesses.
— Xeenarh Mohammed, The Initiative for Equal Rights, Nigeria
It seems like international companies want to help advance LGBT+ inclusion; they just need a guide for how to responsibly act.
— Azza Sultan, Mesahat Foundation, Egypt

A special thanks to our partners