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Are big corporations doing enough?

It has become the new norm to see big corporations and well-known brands show public support for the LGTBQIA+ community. They often ramp up support during pride month by displaying the LGBTQIA+ flag on their products and publicly making large donations to LGBTQIA+ related charities. It is a step welcomed by the community and positive change for businesses and services to show their support in this very public and progressive way. However, is it for positive publicity, as a way of helping to increase brand loyalty, or do these organisations care about the community and want members to be treated fairly. Outside of pride month and product placements, are governments and big global corporations doing enough to help improve the safety and equality of the LGBTQIA+ community worldwide?
  Big Business

The LGBTQIA+ community is big business, with an estimated spend of 1.22 trillion US dollars each year; the community, as a whole, has serious spending power globally. The reality is that inclusive companies are more likely to receive brand loyalty from the community, progressives and allies. Especially when businesses tailor their products and show their support to the community, all of which will likely go a long way to help the profitability of these companies. Regardless of the corporate agenda, motivations or intentions, it is welcomed and reassuring to see well-known brands showing public support. All are making a clear statement that they are a company that includes everyone.

Though there have been many positive developments over the years, today, over 25% of the world’s LGBTQIA+ community live in countries where same-sex relationships are deemed illegal under the law. Some of those countries even enforce the death penalty for those prosecuted. There are still many LGBTQIA+ individuals worldwide living in fear of being their true selves. Many of these barbaric laws and practices are in countries supported by regimes that have longevity due to the country’s economic wealth, achieved with the help of their trading partners. According to the 17th-century Italian military general, Raimondo Montecuccoli, three things were needed in war: money, money, and money. A statement that is true when it also comes to sustaining a country and its regime.

  Exports Matter

Often, a significant economic component within many of these countries will involve exporting products and services sold worldwide. Though these products and materials may be shipped worldwide, many are used within global well-known supply chains. Many consumers are often unaware of how they are being used. Typically, not understanding that most of these materials become components for popular products, services and brands, whether in their creation or packaging. If governments and businesses alike reviewed their supply chains and adopted a zero-tolerance approach to barbaric practices would likely have a positive impact. Including human rights as part of trade negotiations would likely pressure many regimes to reconsider some of their more extreme policies or risk losing trade.

Of course, large companies and foreign governments should not interfere with the policies and running of a given country. However, some practices and laws are so barbaric that they belong in the dark ages. If known to be funding, even in a small way, likely, most well-known brands would not want to be associated with or seen to support these laws. It is naive to believe that you can change a culture, belief system or even the mindsets of an entire nation overnight. However, small changes can often have a significant impact. For example, if just 1 of the 12 countries with a death penalty in place abolished that form of punishment for same-sex prosecutions. Then at least those living in that country would not be forced to live in fear of their lives. If 2 of 72 changed the legal status of same-sex relationships, it would mean many living in those countries would have legal protection. No longer be forced to live in fear of the law, just for accepting who they are.

You may ask what can countries and companies do; one such example is fairtrade coffee. In the coffee industry, many producers and suppliers follow fairtrade practices, which have been in place since the 1960s. Fairtrade practices were adopted, given many people and businesses within the supply chain were historically being exploited. Today, whenever you visit a supermarket and pick up coffee products from the shelves. You will likely see product packaging for many popular and well-known brands that display the fairtrade mark. The mark displayed on the packaging reassures consumers that fairtrade practices have been followed in the manufacturing and production of that particular brand of coffee. The adoption of free trade has been so widespread that it is hard to find coffee now that does not display the logo. If products had an ethical partner badge, could it work in a similar way?

  Ethical Businesses
Let’s take the example of cheese production. Most ingredients such as milk and rennet might be sourced locally; however, some elements and even the packaging might not. It is common practice for large scale manufactures and production lines to source products from around the world. Often, companies look for competitively priced products that offer bulk-purchasing discounts. Some of these products might come from countries with serious human rights issues. Many consumers are unaware of the entire supply chain, so they often believe that they are buying ethically produced and sourced products whenever they make a purchase. Usually, unaware that elements of the product were sourced from countries that violate human rights. If companies were to adopt a badge or mark similar to fairtrade, consumers would be aware that it was from an entirely ethical supply chain. The more products are sourced only through ethical supply chains, the more pressure is placed on companies and countries that are human rights violators.

Ultimately it is consumer power; it may in the short-term increase production costs. However, it would inevitably make countries and corporations think twice about how they treat individuals under their charge. Religion and state should be separate and personal beliefs should not dictate the laws or penalties within any given country. Everyone worldwide should have their fundamental human rights and protection under the law, regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. So could companies and countries do more? The answer is yes. Suppose all businesses and governments ensure that they trade with countries that meet a minimum level regarding the treatment of human rights of their citizens. Doing so would likely make many hostile countries and regimes think twice about their actions or risk facing economic hardship.
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