Photo: UNDP

‘It doesn’t just make ‘social’ sense to promote diversity and inclusion, it also makes business sense” - business leaders, representatives of civil society, international organization and consumers found common ground at the Inclusive Business Forum in Ho Chi Minh on October 11th 2019, on the eve of the Viet Nam Entrepreneur’s Day.

With a diverse work staff, regardless of their background, sexual orientation, gender identity, or being differently abled, businesses in Viet Nam can tap into a pool of new talents and innovative ideas to keep up with rapidly changing markets. 

Research shows that more inclusive companies are twice as likely to have higher total shareholder returns than their peers, on average. Additionally, companies that have become more inclusive over time are four times more likely to have total shareholder returns that outperform those of their peer group. When it comes to profitability and value creation, these companies achieved 28% higher revenue, double the net income and 30% higher economic profit margins over the four-year period on average.

However, despite the global promotion of Diversity & Inclusion, many challenges persist in Viet Nam in creating a culture of inclusion in business. A study conducted by iSEE and UNDP in 2016 found that on average 30 percent of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) respondents in Viet Nam reported being denied employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Furthermore, in the 2018 report, Ending Stigma, 66% of persons with disabilities respondents stated they had never even taken a job interview, and of those who had, 54% reported that they had been denied a job because they had a disability.

 Mr. Dao Xuan Lai, UNDP Assistant Resident Representative in Viet Nam (Photo: UNDP)

“UNDP believes in leaving no one behind, that is the best and the only way forward to achieving sustainable development and protecting our single planet,” said Dao Xuan Lai, UNDP Assistant Resident Representative in Viet Nam. “Many Vietnamese businesses are already greening their investments, generating decent jobs, creating opportunities to reduce inequalities in the workforce and challenging stereotypes, including for Persons with Disabilities and LGBTI persons. The Inclusive Business Forum provides a space to recognize and promote these leaders in business”.

The Inclusive Business Forum showcased examples of the innovation, business, and equality case for diversity and inclusion and discussed how these seemingly competing interests could not only complement but mutually reinforced each other. CEOs, Directors, Managers and business leaders of multinational corporations, Vietnamese businesses, SMEs discussed the challenges and solutions associated with integrating diversity and inclusion into business operations, and to explore potential areas of collaboration for future endeavors.

Leading businesses such as Accenture, Baker McKenzie, KPMG, S.A.P. and IKEA, have adopted new global standards to tackle discrimination against LGBTI people, taking human rights-based approach in being a responsible business.

Mr. Warrick Cleine, Chairman and CEO of KPMG in Viet Nam and Cambodia (Photo: UNDP)

“Vietnam can only meet its potential if everyone is part of the story,” said Warrick Cleine, Chairman and CEO of KPMG in Viet Nam and Cambodia.  “This means businesses must create a positive, inclusive and diverse experience. At KPMG, this means a Happy, Healthy and Safe workplace, where everyone can bring their whole selves to work.  This is great for Vietnam, and fantastic for business”.

Imagtor, who won the UNDP SDG Challenge in 2017 and received equity-free seed funding and a business incubation programme, shared how they have championed diversity and inclusion. The company now employ over 70 people in their IT firm, 60% of them are persons with a disability, who are well suited to IT work and have helped the business continue to grow to expand to securing clients in Japan, Australia and the United States.

Phu Nhuan Jewelry Joint Stock Company (PNJ) talked about their progressive marketing campaigns in using same sex couples to model their jewelry. This messaging helps to challenge stereotypes and combat discrimination against LGBTI, while PNJ can develop their consumer base by opening up their product and service lines to niche market segments.

Ms. Cao Thi Ngoc Dung, Chairperson of PNJ, emphasized the need to integrate the customer and society benefits into the company’s interests. “When we have trust, we would have everything. When trust and inspiration are big enough, we would definitely achieve great breakthroughs” she said.

Meanwhile, Francesco Tran Van Lieng, President of Vinacacao, said: “Vietnamcacao focuses on enhancing the social responsibility by keeping pace 4.0 technology trend to help the disabled and less competitive labor forces to integrate the working environment contribute to the business growth thereby redistributing benefits to society”.

The Forum is part of the Én Xanh Blue Swallows programe, co-organized by the Center for Social Initiatives Promotion, UN Development Programme; Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Viet Nam Union of Science and Technology Association./.

Khac Kien