DAVOS, JANUARY 26 – The Italian pasta giant Barilla is the first Italian company to endorse the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Global Standards designed to help business promote equality for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex people in the workplace and beyond. High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein presented the Standards at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Barilla, which in 2013 had run afoul of the gay rights movement after its chairman said he would never feature a same-sex couple in an ad, has since since made a dramatic turnaround, expanding health benefits for transgender workers and their families, contributing money to gay rights causes, and featuring a lesbian couple on a promotional Web site.
Today Barilla is one of 20 more companies join growing list of early adopters, including Airbnb, Airbus, AXA, Barilla, Bloomberg L.P., Cisco Systems Inc., Gol, Hermes Investment Management, Lloyd’s, Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics – North America, Marriott International, MAS Holdings, Nasdaq, New York Life, Santander Group, Tesco, Trillium Asset Management, Unilever, Vert Asset Management, Xerox.
The Standards of Conduct build on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. They are the product of a year-long process of consultations facilitated by the UN Human Rights Office and the Institute for Human Rights and Business, including regional meetings with leading business representatives in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. The 54 companies which have already indicated their support represent more than 3.5 million employees and more than 1.3 trillion USD in revenues every year.
Zeid spoke at a panel discussion titled “Free and Equal: Standing Up for Diversity”, which also included Vittorio Colao, Vodafone Group Chief Executive Officer, and Jin Xing, Choreographer and Founder of the Jin Xing Dance Theatre Shanghai, and was moderated by Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief, of The Economist magazine. “The private sector has a crucial leadership role in ensuring that their LGBTI employees experience dignity and equal opportunities in the workplace and beyond. Companies that take action to end discrimination and support LGBTI communities can be a motor for change,” the High Commissioner said. “These Standards provide the most comprehensive set of benchmarks for responsible corporate behaviour on LGBTI issues. A company of any nationality, size and location or sector can find no better vehicle to correct inequities and end discrimination brought about by prejudice.”
The five Standards of Conduct build on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. They are: RESPECT the human rights of their LGBTI workers, customers and members of the public; ELIMINATE workplace discrimination against LGBTI employees; SUPPORT LGBTI employees at work; PREVENT discrimination and related abuses against LGBTI customers, suppliers and distributors – and insist that suppliers do the same; STAND UP for the human rights of LGBTI people in the communities where companies do business. (@OnuItalia)