Business support for LGBTQ+ rights matters more than ever

Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
12 June 2023

The economic case for LGBTQ+ inclusion has never been clearer, as highlighted in the Open For Business impact report. And the voices of businesses and their leaders remain vital in tackling discrimination and homophobia around the world.  

The report highlights the great progress that Open For Business, a coalition of businesses fighting homophobia on a global scale has made to advance LGBTQ+ rights around the world. Virgin has supported Open For Business for a number of years and is named in the report as an Equality Champion for 2023 for its support especially in the Caribbean and Uganda. 

Following the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality bill by the Ugandan Parliament in March 2023, among the most draconian anti-LGBTQ+ legislation ever passed, Open For Business responded to an emergency request for help from a group of Ugandan LGBTQ+ organisations, and began to mobilise its resources and take immediate action. 

The flag of Uganda and a Pride flag

Working with its partners, and aligning with the UK and US foreign ministries, Open For Business drafted and delivered a letter to Uganda President Museveni urging him not to assent to the law and sent him a business statement explaining why it is bad for people, bad for businesses and bad for the Ugandan economy. 

The law makes it a crime to provide information and support to employees, colleagues, suppliers, investors, and customers who might be from sexual or gender minorities. Additionally, it will compel companies to report those perceived to be LGBTQ+ to the authorities. 

Richard Branson has spoken out against the legislation. He said: “The country’s new ‘Anti-Homosexuality Act’, one of the most aggressive pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the world, could lead to the persecution of hundreds of thousands of people, driving them into hiding, or even exile. Some of the new ‘offences’ outlined in the Act even carry the death penalty.” 

Supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Caribbean

Virgin Atlantic has supported Open For Business’ work in the Caribbean for many years, where the focus is on building on the growing momentum for change in the region, and to strengthen support for LGBTQ+ inclusion in business and beyond. 

Open For Business published the largest ever survey of Caribbean LGBTQ+ people (those currently living in the region plus diaspora), as well as prospective Caribbean tourists. The report found that LGBTQ+ discrimination costs Caribbean countries up to $4.2 billion a year – as much as 5.7% of annual GDP.  

Tourism contributes up to 14% of GDP in the Caribbean, but 18% of travellers said they would not visit the region, predominantly because of anti-LGBT+ laws and stigma. State-sponsored homophobia and transphobia have clear financial costs, but data also showed a significantly stronger likelihood of tourists visiting a country after it adopts pro-LGBTQ+ policies. 

Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic

“The Caribbean programme is off to a great start after finding its footing in the region. At this point our mandate is clear – to use our data and our business networks to make the case for LGBTQ+ equality,” Donnya ‘Zi’ Piggot, Open For Business’ Programme Lead in the Caribbean, said. “I’m looking forward to digging deeper within the business community across the region.” 

Open For Business is already working with a number of businesses in the region to encourage LGBTQ+ inclusion, including helping to run Pride events and leading sessions for LGBTQ+ advocates on tourism and working with the private sector. 

Visit Open For Business to download the impact report and learn more about the work to further LGBTQ+ rights around the world.