The Pride of Lao Business: Driving LGBTQI Diversity and Inclusion in Lao PDR

Posted June 30, 2022
people posing for selfies
Photo by: Lao Airlines

Over the past decade, diversity and inclusion (D&I) in business has emerged as one of the leading global trends as the research shows that having a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace is not only good for society but also good for business. Businesses that employ people with different backgrounds and experiences, including LGBTQI people, persons with disabilities, and people from ethnic groups, are proven to gain a comparative edge over their competitors by attracting talent, being more innovative, and building their reputation among a growing base of ethical consumers and suppliers. 

Studies show that diverse businesses are 70 per cent more likely to capture new markets and receive 2.3 times more cash than those that do not actively recruit people from under-represented groups. In 2020, 91 per cent of the 500 most profitable corporations worldwide included sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policies, 68 per cent made a public commitment to the LGBTQI community, while 62 per cent provided transgender-inclusive health coverage, and 53 per cent extended benefits for same-sex partners.

D&I in business has also become an emerging trend in Lao PDR, with many Lao businesses taking small but important steps to show their support for the local LGBTQI community. This trend has become even more popular around Pride Month, which is celebrated globally in June every year to raise awareness of the rights of LGBTQI people.

Lao Airlines was one of the first movers in showing their commitment to being an LGBTQI ally, celebrating Pride Month with their rainbow-clad logo in both 2021 and 2022, and expressing support for the LGBTQI staff working for the airline. “We have a very accepting and fun environment in the office. With a young team, the company is open and inclusive of everyone, and people are more confident in being themselves. We felt comfortable speaking with our management to show our support for LGBTQI people during Pride Month, and they agreed to take action. We have received a lot of good feedback from Lao people on social media, thanking Lao Airlines for the commitment and support” shared Mr. Pele Sivongthong, Marketing Team Member, and Ms. Dalavady Phothisane, Marketing Manager, Lao Airlines.

In practice, D&I is a year-round investment that goes beyond just Pride Month to really reap the rewards. Businesses that embrace D&I often experience the benefits in staff productivity, innovation, and opening up new markets, in particular among millennials and Gen Z consumers who care more about the values of the businesses they buy from. 

Foodpanda has also been looking for the ‘Lao way’ of creating a diverse, inclusive, and happy workplace where LGBTQI employees feel safe to be themselves. For Foodpanda, the main goal is to ensure everyone is happy and feels free to be themselves” explained Ms. Somseun Sokxay, Head of People, Foodpanda. She added that “the commitment to diversity starts from the very top of the company, led by our Managing Director. We are first looking inside our own business by encouraging our staff to use inclusive language in their daily communications around the office, instead of imposing heavy rules on how to behave. This way we have noticed a growing curiosity in our staff to learn more about D&I, not because we tell them it is important.”

panel discussion and participants
Photo by: Foodpanda

Lao Brewery Company is another business leading the way in Lao PDR, and is already enjoying some of the benefits of celebrating Pride Month on their social media. “In Lao Brewery Company, we have a strong LGBTQI community. Management supports the Pride Month messaging as part of our D&I policy”, shared Mr. Manothai Vongnalath, Organizational Development, Lao Brewery Company. This has helped the business to tap into a wider pool of local talent: “We have seen an increase in interest from talented LGBTQI candidates applying for highly skilled positions in the company. When we asked why they applied, – they answered they saw our D&I activities, especially the Pride Month posts, and felt they would be joining a safe and empowering space to be themselves when working with our company.” In an industry that is globally competitive, recruiting and retaining top talent is a major priority for Lao Brewery Company. The company has grown to understand the importance of a diverse and inclusive workforce and places an increasing focus on removing unconscious bias in recruitment and promotion.

people discussing at a booth table
Photo by: Lao Brewery Company

The UN Standards of Conduct for Business on Tackling Discrimination Against LGBTQI People is the key international document, which offers practical guidance for companies on how to respect and support the rights of LGBTQI people in the workplace, labour market, and community. Over 300 companies have signed the UN Standards of Conduct, with several of these global champions operating in Lao PDR, including Coca-Cola, ANZ Bank, Nestle, and Facebook. UNDP is working to promote the UN Standards of Conduct to even more businesses in Lao PDR.

The “Improving Performance, Accountability, Conduct, and Transparency of Business in Lao PDR” (IMPACT Biz) Project, implemented by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and UNDP with support from the Government of Japan, will work closely with Lao businesses to translate the global UN Standards of Conduct into local action. The Project will build on the Manual on D&I in the Workplace recently developed by Proud to Be Us Laos and the National University of Laos, which aims to support businesses in improving their overall business performance by establishing D&I policies and practices.

These first steps among leading Lao businesses are small but hugely important in ensuring Lao PDR does not miss out on global corporate trends. D&I offers Lao PDR a unique opportunity to address two key national development priorities: driving economic growth and ensuring that no one gets left behind as the country continues to move forward. 

 

For more information, please contact: 

Ms. Aksonethip Somvorachit 

UNDP Communications Analyst

Lane Xang Avenue, P.O. Box 345 

Vientiane, Lao PDR 

aksonethip.somvorachit@undp.org  

+856 20 5502 1550