Why companies should support LGBT community

December 19, 2014 17:38
HSBC group CEO Stuart Gulliver believes that supporting the LGBT community is good for business. The rainbow flag (left) is a symbol of LGBT pride. Photo: HKEJ

“Embracing diversity is simply good for business.” 

HSBC group chief executive officer Stuart Gulliver spoke those words in support of the LGBT community. (LGBT refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders.)

He was talking about the vast business opportunities and pools of talent to be tapped in the LGBT market.

Companies should encourage LGBT to “become more visible”, which is a smart business strategy that will open up a new market segment, instead of driving away customers because of their sexual orientation, religion or race, columnist But Lo-lam wrote in the Hong Kong Economic Journal Friday.

Although the overall number of LGBT who have come out in the open may only account for a small percentage of the population, the group holds huge market potential. For example, companies can offer financial and insurance products that cater to their needs.

The Financial Times has named Apple CEO Tim Cook as its Person of the Year mainly because of its outstanding performance in leading the company in the post-Steve Jobs era. But what also made him stand out among the elite of corporate executives is his recent declaration that he is "proud to be gay”, which he made in support of the LGBT community and in spite of his strong desire to keep his private life out of the public eye.

In a recent speech at an LGBT summit in Admiralty, HSBC’s Gulliver said that as a straight white man, he enjoyed the benefits of being like the majority of the British society. However, he also felt pressure to fit in with peers in Oxford due to his humble roots.

The columnist said he also experienced discrimination when he was a student in Canada.

One day he went to a local Chinese restaurant, and as he was having his meal, he noticed that a group of white people at the next table kept on looking at him and later shouted obscenities at him.

Although Canada is widely recognized as a diverse and tolerant society, some people still cling to their old biases, he said.

The matter of sexual orientation is an even more complicated issue to deal with, he added.

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Freelance journalist