Being open, welcoming and a strong ally of the LGBT+ community has been part of the Virgin story for more than four decades now. We know it matters a great deal to our people and their families, to our business partners, and of course to our customers. The Virgin brand and the Virgin family wouldn’t be what they are without our commitments to LGBT+ rights.
But business needs to do more to ensure that LGBT+ communities can live free from discrimination, prosecution and fear. As global employers, traders and certainly as global advocates, we have an enormous and important role to play when it comes to standing up for LGBT+ rights, especially in the many places where those rights are still violated. That’s one of the reasons Virgin joined Open for Business, a global coalition of 24 leading brands concerned about the growing backlash against LGTB+ communities and the recent spread of anti-LGBT+ legislation around the world.
The businesses in OFB support the initiative because we know it is the right thing to do. But we also know that LGBT+ inclusion makes sound business sense. As employers, we want to be able to draw from the widest possible talent pool, one that isn’t limited by hateful or discriminatory legislation. As a global lifestyle brand, we want to reach the widest possible customer base that aligns with our values. Exclusion does exactly the opposite.
I was thrilled to see the latest piece of brilliant research launched by the team at OFB in Davos today. Strengthening the economic case confirms what many of us in business have long believed to be true - that LGBT+ inclusion goes hand-in-hand with higher levels of innovation, a stronger skills base and higher quality of life, all of which contribute to better economic performance and higher per-capita GDP.
Based on an amazingly detailed analysis of business performance, economic performance and individual metrics, the report also shows that LGBT+ inclusive countries are more likely to have institutions, policies and infrastructure that allow them to grow; and that LGBT+ inclusive companies are more likely to show better financial performance. On the downside, the report finds that LGBT+ discrimination often comes with higher level corruption.
Most exciting about this latest research are the Open for Business Cities Ratings, a guide of 121 global cities that shows which are open, progressive and economically competitive—and which are not. Not surprisingly, cosmopolitan hubs like New York, London, Berlin or San Francisco come out on top in the ratings, but others, like Hong Kong, Bangalore or Mexico City show promise to close the gap in the future. I’ve never had a doubt that LGBT+ inclusion leads to greater innovation, a better skills base and certainly a higher quality of life. Here’s the proof. The Open for Business Cities Ratings give all of us in business answers to many important questions relevant to investment, hiring and location. For cities around the world, they should be a great inspiration to strive for greater inclusion.