Institutional Visit to Brussels

Nov 30, 2023

Brussels – On Wednesday, November 29, European Pride Business Network (EPBN) together with the European LGBTIQ Chamber of Commerce (EGLCC)  and its regional chambers and national members (among which EDGE, L’Autre Cercle, BGLBC, East meets West, Pride Business Forum and Network) took a significant step in advancing workplace equality and LGBTIQ inclusion in business. As civil society organizations  dedicated to advocating for and fostering full workplace equality and an inclusive and diverse supply chain, the  EGLCC and EPBN conducted strategic meetings at the European Parliament and European Commission meeting among others:

  • Vera Jourova, Vice President European Commission and Commissioner for Rule of Law;
  • Marc Angel (MEP), Vice President European Parliament and Co-chair EP LGBTI Intergroup together with Kim Van Sparrentak, Dutch MEP;
  • Irene Tinagli (MPE), Chair of the Economic Affairs Committee European Parliament;
  • Irène Tolleret, French MEP;
  • Stéphane Bijoux, French MEP;
  • Francesco Schmidt, Unit 3 GD Employment.

The primary objective of these meetings was to call for the swift advancement of effective inclusion of LGBTIQ  individuals in the business environment. Despite progress, discrimination against LGBTIQ individuals persists. Both  organizations urge the promotion of European Union-wide initiatives that engage employers, employees, and  businesses in fostering inclusive cultures and policies, such as Supplier Diversity & Inclusion, role modeling, and  leadership training.  

“Inclusion is an european relevant policy issue, this is the message we wanted to share with the European institutions today – EPBN and EGLCC representatives said – Inclusion is beneficial not only to people at risk of discrimination but to companies and society at large since it increases trust and social capital and is also a driver for better macroeconomic results and territorial attractiveness.”

While acknowledging existing initiatives supporting LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the business sphere, EPBN and EGLCC emphasize the need to address constraints hindering progress, including the following key areas:  

  1. LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the workplace Initiatives. We appreciate EU initiatives to support inclusion in the workplace. Member States are still struggling to bring the inclusion agenda at a mainstream level in the implementation phase. There is still room for encourage the public and private sectors to recognize diversity by offering them specific training tools;
  2. Inclusive Supplier Diversity Initiatives: encouraging EU-wide promotion of corporate Supplier Diversity &  Inclusion initiatives with high potential for improving the business environment conditions of SMEs owned  or operated by LGBTIQ+ people.  
  3. European Funds Implementation Challenges: highlighting the struggle of Member States in bringing the  inclusion agenda to a mainstream level during the implementation phase of initiatives built in the European  Funds.  

Along with inclusion in the business and in the workplace other initiatives are needed to ensure the full participation of LGBTIQ+ people in the workplace, business and public life at EU wide level

  • Freedom of Movement: Advocating for efforts to secure effective freedom of movement for LGBTIQ+  families across Europe, addressing legal obstacles hindering international mobility;
  • Contrast of Hate Speech and Hate Crimes: Emphasizing the need for comprehensive measures to combat  hate speech and hate crimes targeting the LGBTIQ community; 
  • Diversity Training: Stressing the importance of inclusive approaches in education and healthcare, including  diversity training for professionals, to foster a supportive environment; 
  • Legal Protection: Urging the establishment of independent bodies in Member States with a mandate to  protect human rights, explicitly addressing the rights of LGBTIQ+ people; 
  • Conversion Therapy Ban: Calling for an immediate ban on so-called conversion therapies, recognizing them  as a threat to the well-being of the LGBTIQ+ community;
  • Rights Protection in EU Enlargement: Stressing the importance of upholding the rule of law and human  rights, particularly in countries of recent EU accession, to safeguard the rights of LGBTIQ+ people;
  • Cross-border recognition of families: the initiative that is discussed in the Parliament would allow LGBTIQ families be equally protected in all countries of EU;
  • Addressing Bias in AI: Highlighting the need for specific attention to bias in artificial intelligence to ensure  an inclusive digital future for all. 

 

EPBN and EGLCC maintain their unwavering commitment to driving positive change, working collaboratively  with stakeholders to create a more inclusive and equitable business environment for LGBTIQ individuals across  Europe.  

EGLCC’s Primary Focus: Supplier Diversity & Inclusion  

During the institutional visit to Brussels, the EGLCC, in collaboration with its regional member chambers, EDGE,  L’Autre Cercle, and BGLBC, placed a primary focus on advocating for the advancement of Supplier Diversity &  Inclusion initiatives. These programs unlock growth opportunities by connecting LGBTIQ businesses with  organizations, both public and private, that value stronger inclusiveness and diversity in their supply chain.  

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) constitute 99% of all businesses in the European Union, employing  around 100 million people and contributing significantly to the EU’s GDP. Diverse and inclusive supply chains bring  benefits such as increased competition, innovation, reduced socio-economic inequality, economic prosperity, job  growth, and the development of stronger, more sustainable communities.  

As of November 2023, the EGLCC estimates approximately 1.5 million LGBTIQ-owned SMEs across the EU. These  entrepreneurs often face challenges such as discrimination, limited access to mainstream business networks, and  heightened levels of doubt. Research indicates that, on average, 26% of LGBTIQ individuals in the EU conceal their  sexual orientation or gender identity at work, with some countries reaching 50%.  

While global corporations increasingly embrace inclusive procurement and Supplier Diversity & Inclusion programs,  the EU needs to play a pivotal role, too. To further promote equality, encourage integration, boost economic growth,  and align with broader EU objectives, the EU should actively foster inclusive procurement in its policies and recognize  minority entrepreneurship within its institutional structure.  

Inclusive procurement should extend beyond the EU Platform of Diversity Charters, coordinating the activities of  Diversity Charters at the Member State level. It should involve research focused on LGBTIQ-owned businesses, filling  gaps in data, and validating assumptions and insights from business networks.  

The EU’s motto, “United in Diversity,” resonates with the goals of inclusive procurement, promoting equality,  encouraging integration, and boosting economic growth. While the EU has long promoted inclusive  entrepreneurship policies, there is a crucial need to fill the gap concerning initiatives that encourage inclusive  procurement—positive actions that help SMEs owned by people from disadvantaged and under-represented groups  overcome obstacles in securing contracts with EU institutions, public bodies, and large corporations.  

Inclusive procurement will enable buyers and the EU economy as a whole to harness the benefits of more diverse,  resilient, innovative, and cost-competitive supply chains. The EGLCC and its regional chambers remain committed to  fostering positive change, working collaboratively with stakeholders to create a more inclusive and equitable  business environment for LGBTIQ individuals across Europe.

EPBN ‘s Primary Focus: LGBTIQ workplace equality

EPBN is the European umbrella organization for LGBTIQ workplace equality. It was established in 2022 with a vision of combating and preventing discrimination of LGBTIQ people at work and promoting LGBTIQ equality at the workplace across Europe. It currently unites 13 organizations from 10 countries (Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland). 

According to the EU Fundamental Rights Agency everyday discrimination of LGBTIQ people persists in Europe. LGBTIQ individuals encounter it at work and at school; at cafés, restaurants, bars and nightclubs; when looking for housing; when accessing healthcare or social services; and in shops. The results of a similar survey conducted by FRA in 2012 show almost identical numbers, and in some countries, discrimination at work is even worse in 2019.

The EPBN addresses this urgent need to combat discrimination and inequality faced by LGBTIQ individuals in employment. Our goal is to foster a united front against discrimination of LGBTIQ people in employment by creating a strong network of civil society organizations, employers, and LGBTIQ professionals dedicated to promoting workplace equality. 

THIS CONTENT WAS PREPARED BY EDGE.