September 19, 2021

CFC Big Ideas provided communication support for the Open For Business coalition who presented a study on the economic situation for the LGBT+ Inclusion in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Extensive data analysis, case studies, and survey research aimed to analyze the current economic and business environments in Ukraine, Poland, Romania, and Hungary. This report suggests that greater LGBT+ inclusion could make countries and companies more achievable economically.

In her new article, Anna Krys, Head of Partnerships at CFC Big Ideas and the organizer of GIOF 2021, covers the key outcomes of this report, with comments by the authors and activists. The results of a series of studies can be found at this link.

The LGBT + community’s situation today:

Policy and legislation

In 2015, Ukraine adopted a national human rights strategy and drew up a five-year action plan to promote LGBT+ equality in society. Despite optimistic expectations that the current government would be more open to the problems of the LGBT+ community, activists noted an almost complete lack of action on pressing equality issues, such as the recognition of same-sex marriage and LGBT+ couples’ right to adopt children, due to organized reactionary resistance from LGBT+ opponents and lack of political will.

The bill on combating hate crimes against LGBT+ put forward in 2020 has not been approved by the parliamentary committee.

Impact on the LGBTIA+ community

While conditions for the LGBT+ community in Kyiv and other large cities are generally getting somewhat better, the country still has numerous cases of incitement to hatred and violence against members of the community. The Ukrainian police are notorious for their reluctance to help LGBT+ people, but recently, the situation has gradually begun to improve due to the rapid informational and educational activities brought upon by activists. A number of LGBT+ activists and supporters in Kyiv and throughout Ukraine ran for public office during the 2020 elections.

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Business reaction

Businesses began to pay more attention to the LGBT+ community through the efforts of human rights groups, such as Fulcrum UA with the Corporate Equality Index and other programs aimed at raising awareness of LGBT+ issues.

The analysis of the study demonstrates the relationship between the systemic harassment of members of the LGBT+ community and the economic potential of CEE countries. According to the results, discrimination against LGBT+ costs countries of the region between 0.43% and 1.75% of GDP each year, and inclusive companies become more competitive and have better financial performance.

The researchers also came to the following conclusions:

  • Increasing LGBT+ rights and protection by 10%, according to F&M Global Barometers in these countries, increases GDP by € 3,100 per capita;
  • More economically developed countries have better results in protecting LGBT + rights;
  • CEE countries are losing foreign investment opportunities due to deliberate discrimination against LGBT+ at the legal and civil levels;
  • Qualified professionals leave regions with discrimination with hopes of working in a friendlier society;
  • LGBT-friendly companies outperform their competitors in the market;
  • The research was supported by Google, Equality Without Borders and The Brunswick Group. National reports were also presented in Hungary, Poland, and Romania.

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— Сan you tell us briefly how the study was conducted? Such a large amount of data was probably difficult to find and then analyze.

«We started by looking at the 27 global propositions or arguments for LGBT+ inclusion that Open For Business has developed and saw which ones are most relevant to the region. We did that through key informant interviews and surveys of business, CSO, and other leaders in the four countries. We decided on twelve of the propositions and then looked for as much data as we could find on the topic. We used some previous Open For Business research as a basis for our analyses.

You are right - in many areas, there is not a lot of data on LGBT people. We also conducted a survey of human resources managers at 190 companies in the region and conducted interviews with companies that have exemplary records on LGBT inclusion, which became the case studies in the report. Overall, while there is much discrimination and bias in the four countries towards LGBT people, we think that businesses are often doing a lot to be supportive».

George Perlov, author of the study

The main topics of the webinar were the interrelationships between LGBT+ inclusion and economic growth, the peculiarities of implementing LGBT+ friendly corporate policies in enterprises of various scales, and the impact of community support from businesses and civil society organizations in Ukraine.

«Human rights activists and the business community have long needed research that sheds a light on Ukraine's economic losses through LGBT + discrimination. I am convinced that the Open For Business study will be useful for all those who advocate non-discrimination in the workplace».

Timur Levchuk, NGO «Tochka Opory»

— In your opinion, can Ukraine follow Ireland's path in the development of LGBT+ inclusion?

«I think it's possible. In Ireland, LGBT activists worked with companies to make sure they had strong diversity and inclusion practices and programs internally before asking companies to help advocate for LGBT rights regarding the marriage referendum there in 2015. Many multinational companies have strong programs for inclusion in Ukraine, as do smaller companies and start-ups. We hope to see more of this, especially if the government is not making policies to support greater inclusion. Many multinational companies, as well as smaller companies and start-ups, have powerful programs to implement in Ukraine. We hope to see more than that, especially if the government does not pursue a policy of supporting greater inclusion».

George Perlov, author of the study

Open For Business is an association of global companies that proves that a society based on principles of inclusion and diversity is much more effective in business development. At the international level, its mission is to reach an understanding within the business community of the harmful effects of anti-LGBT+ policies on sustainable economic development. At the local level, it aims to appeal to the business community based on objective data.

«Since its founding in 2015, Open For Business has laid a solid foundation for research that demonstrates that the implementation and development of LGBT+ community inclusion have beneficial effects on business, economy, and people.

This regional report became our first such project. The report presents a factual approach to shaping the inclusion of the LGBT+ community, and we hope that this information will be useful in the current discussions, in which businesses can play an important role. We believe that the private sector has the necessary potential to improve the professional and social status of the LGBT+ community, and we hope that the results of our study will be useful for business leaders in Ukraine».

Catherine Dovey, CEO at Open for Business

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The topics of inclusion and inclusive environments are not new and have been discussed for a long time, especially among CSR and HR professionals. At present, it cannot be said that the situation is ideal.

— What steps should the government and businesses take to make the LGBT+ community feel safe and secure?

“From the government side, as the data shows, more protections and rights should be passed legally so that LGBT people are treated equally and fairly in all parts of their lives. Partnership laws would be a good place to start. Businesses need to do more in their recruiting and retention policies so that all employees feel welcome and safe and that anti-LGBT language or actions are not tolerated at all. They should also develop ongoing relationships with local LGBT organizations to see where they can be more supportive overall”.

George Perlov, author of the study

Therefore, the European Business Association, one of the largest business communities in Ukraine, draws the attention of member companies to this situation and offers businesses a more conscious approach to diversity, inclusion, and anti-discrimination.

Thus, the results of studies on the economic analysis of LGBT + community inclusion show that there are still many areas in Ukraine that need to be improved at the legislative, social, and corporate levels. After all, the protection of workers and the formation of equal rights and opportunities for all segments of the population, regardless of gender, race, color, religion, sexual orientation, or political beliefs, etc., should be the basis of personnel policy of any progressive and decent company.

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