July 13, 2020

Lead don’t follow on discrimination

Lead don’t follow on discrimination

A key debate is heading before the States of Guernsey this week, with the Island’s politicians (finally) due to consider the introduction of more comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.

There are many factors to consider of course, not least how very overdue these measures are. Given current events, there would also appear to be no better time to press home this message and demonstrate that the island takes these issues seriously – as the Black Lives Matter movement and the Coronavirus have highlighted, discrimination is rife in society whether that is due to race or disability. We are all now more aware of the prejudice that black people face every day and have all now experienced having access to things we take for granted taken away. Surely now we can all support legislation that seeks to banish discrimination from our community for good?

But perhaps it is not that simple. Previous attempts to develop and establish this legislation have faltered because of the impact it might have on business. While there are concerns over the cost of adapting to a new way of doing things, businesses should also be aware that there could be an even greater cost to not changing their ways.

The legislation is, sensibly in some ways, being phased in. That means there are parts of the law that will not be enforced until a later date. But as a PR professional concerned with your business’ reputation, I have to ask: do you only do things because you have to, or because they are the right thing to do?

The community of today, of #blacklivesmatter and of #guernseytogether, is more supportive of those local businesses that already share and actively uphold their ideals of fair treatment for all. Being satisfied that you are following ‘the letter of the law’ may not be enough to satisfy your customers or clients who want to see you making a real effort to be inclusive. A 2020 survey by Deloitte stated that Millenials and Gen Z (essentially adults under the age of 40) will:

make a special effort to more actively patronize and support businesses—especially smaller, local sellers—after the pandemic. But they won’t hesitate to penalize companies whose stated and practiced values conflict with their own.

If you are just concerned over the potential impact being inclusive might have, perhaps take a moment to think – if something is fair and right, and will be required of you in just a few short years, then does it make sense to resist doing it now? Bringing in positive change to your business is a good thing for your reputation; and employees, customers and clients will value you more for having taken action.

After all, if something is the right thing to do, why wait until we are made to do it?

Photo credit: Megan Thoume

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