Research shows that creating an environment that is safe, respectful and inclusive for everyone makes for higher levels of creativity, innovation, productivity and overall competitiveness, whether that be in the context of a country, city, company or team. Yet recent studies also reveal that a high percentage of LGBTQ+ employees consistently report facing discrimination, harassment, bullying, and isolation in workplaces globally.
People and culture are a core element of our company’s operating model, the ABB Way. ABB has a deep-rooted commitment to diversity and inclusion which is central to the company’s 2030 sustainability strategy and its focus on social progress. As such, ABB prohibits discrimination on the basis of any dimension, including gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, culture, religion, ability, age, etc.
In September 2020, Maria Varsellona, ABB’s General Counsel and Company Secretary, was named as the executive sponsor for LGBTQ+ inclusion within ABB. Her appointment was a significant step forward to highlight LGBTQ+ inclusion as a management priority within the company and as an essential dimension in its diversity and inclusion strategy.
“I am proud to serve as the Executive Committee sponsor for LGBTQ+ inclusion,” says Varsellona. “The past year has been a time of momentum-gathering and capacity-building within ABB on this topic. We’ve made real strides in terms of all three pillars of our diversity and inclusion strategy with respect to LGBTQ+, including governance and policy, inclusive leadership and culture, and partnerships. I am so pleased to see this issue championed at every level of the company and in geographies around the world.”
In 2020, as part of ABB’s commitment to the LGTBQ+ topic, Varsellona signed on behalf of ABB the Standards of Conduct for Business Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex People, put forth by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Standards of Conduct provides five concrete steps that companies can take to align their policies and practices with international standards on human rights of LGBTI people. ABB expects these standards to be followed by its suppliers to generate a real impact in the 100+ countries the company operates in.
Becoming an official signatory to these standards publicly underscored ABB’s commitment to this issue, a commitment that was further codified in an explicit amendment to the company’s Code of Conduct.
Additionally, partnerships with Stonewall (a UK-based non-profit dedicated to working with institutions on LGBTQ+ inclusion) and Open for Business (a coalition of leading global companies dedicated to LGBT+ inclusion) have been established.
In pursuit of more inclusive leadership and culture, ABB has instituted mandatory training on how to interrupt unconscious bias for all leaders on a worldwide basis. As part of the company’s Open Job Market an inclusive approach to job descriptions for external postings has been introduced. Also, “Count on us!” campaigns have been initiated to support LGBTQ+ employees in coming out.
In recent months, LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have been launched in Europe, the United States, Latin America and Poland. ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that connect based on shared characteristics and experiences to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with ABB’s purpose and business priorities. Collectively, LGBTQ+ ERGs across ABB now boast more than 400 members, creating a critical mass of committed people working to support education, foster empathy and drive engagement on this theme.
ABB has put in place a number of resources to assist employees and managers, including a set of actionable guidelines for LGBTQ+ “allies” and a glossary of terms relevant to the topic of LGBTQ+ inclusion