As four of the largest food companies and major employers in the United States, we view the growing number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills under consideration in state legislatures, including those that target transgender people and particularly children, with increasing alarm.
These bills are bad for families, for communities, for businesses and for the U.S. economy, all still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.
We condemn dangerous, discriminatory legislation that serves as an attack on LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly transgender and nonbinary people. Such laws not only threaten hard-won progress to bring greater awareness, support and equality to transgender Americans, they also threaten the livelihoods and safety of their communities and their families.
This motivates us to continue using our influence to advocate for policies that establish full equality at the federal and state levels, including swift Senate passage of the Equality Act.
Member companies of the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, including Danone North America, Mars, Inc., Nestlé USA and Unilever United States, urge the entire U.S. business community to do the same.
This issue is not political. Providing the same basic protections to LGBTQ+ people as are provided to protected groups under federal law is the right thing to do for businesses and for society.
We employ tens of thousands of people in communities across the country. We embrace diversity in our workforces. Inclusive principles already guide the way we work, run our successful businesses, and engage with our employees and communities.
Discriminatory legislation — in threat and in practice — directly and negatively impacts the ability of our businesses to compete. It undermines our ability to recruit our future workforces and retain existing talent in states like Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Texas and others enacting and considering draconian legislation.
In Kentucky, for example, proposed legislation would allow health care providers to turn away LGBTQ+ and other patients, and bar trans youth from K-12 public school and university sports. Similarly, in Texas, legislators have proposed bills that would ban transgender girls from youth sports.
When states legislate this way, not only do they create an environment where not everyone feels safe and welcomed, they endorse it. Such environments deny transgender and nonbinary people the opportunity to fully contribute to the economies in places where they work and live. This harms them and their families and hinders businesses and local communities.
We applaud Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s decision this week to veto legislation that would have banned gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth. Unfortunately, the Arkansas legislature overrode the governor’s veto Tuesday.
Such policies are out of step with the views of most Americans. The overwhelming majority of Americans support full equality for LGBTQ+ people, according to recent data released by the Human Rights Campaign.
Legislation hurts states’ economies
The ramifications of these discriminatory bills on states’ economic and financial health are also well-documented. A UCLA study found that the social, economic and health effects of stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people negatively impact Texas’ economy by tens of millions of dollars each year. Another study by the Texas Association of Business estimated that discriminatory legislation could result in an estimated economic loss to Texas’ gross domestic product ranging from $964 million to $8.5 billion.
The impacts of such bills are not limited to the states where they are passed. Researchers that studied 39 countries found a clear link between LGBTQ+ discriminatory practices and legislation and the corresponding loss of potential economic output. For LGBTQ+ youth, the study found that discrimination harms their learning, resulting in increased dropout rates and, consequently, reduced participation in the workforce.
We acknowledge that words are powerful. But for companies to engage new generations of workers and consumers, while fostering an environment good for people and for business, we must move beyond only public statements of support for LGBTQ+ issues.
Companies should protect employees
Companies have a responsibility to actively work with federal and state legislators to advocate against bills that harm our employees and our customers, and to advance fairness and equality for all Americans.
We four SFPA companies are committed to stepping up and taking action, including through our advocacy on this important issue. Doing so will support an environment in which all people can grow, thrive, compete and succeed as their true, authentic selves.
Chris Adamo is vice president of Federal and Industry Affairs at Danone North America. Brad Figel is vice president of Public Affairs North America at Mars, Inc. Molly Fogarty is senior vice president of Corporate & Government Affairs at Nestlé USA. Tom Langan is North America director of Sustainable Business & External Affairs for Unilever.