Podcast Ep 67: Irish company Certified Proud’s goal is to create a collective of safe spaces so that members of the LGBTQ+ community can live a life free from discrimination and unease.
Across the world businesses are raising rainbow flags and augmenting their branding to mark the month of Pride. But what happens when Pride is over?
A young Irish company led by Liam Redmond and Eve Kerton is on a mission to ensure that members of the LGBTQ+ community know that they will be accepted 365 days a year, wherever they work, wherever they go, whatever they do.
“We are the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote, but acts of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community happen every single day”
The vision is to ensure that members of the LGBTQ+ community can book a hotel, order a meal, start a new job, or visit any organisation and know they will be treated with respect.
The company provides this assurance by conducting audits across businesses’ workplaces as well as delivering workshops and firms that achieve compliance can with genuine pride declare themselves Certified Proud.
In recent months shared workspace provider Hucletree and Certified Proud announced an exciting new partnership to help Huckletree’s workspaces become more inclusive to LGBTQ+ people living in Dublin, Manchester and London.
As part of the partnership, Certified Proud will be conducting an audit of Huckletree’s seven workspaces and delivering quarterly workshops to its team and members. They will also become members of Huckletree, which will support them with their business growth.
ThinkBusiness caught up with Redmond and Kerton as well as Aislinn Mahon, general manager of Huckletree in Dublin to discuss how the two innovative companies are coming together aim to build a more inclusive working environment for people in Ireland and the UK and their hope that it inspires more companies to take action and change the way their business operates.
Take Pride in your business
Redmond explained the inspiration to establish Certified Proud came from a number of difficult personal experiences. After graduating from college a previous partner told him that he was HIV positive and after visiting a GP he was thrown out of the surgery. Another awkward experience was booking a B&B in the west of Ireland with his partner and fearing prejudice.
“That was the base point for how Certified Proud began,” he says. “I knew it wasn’t right.”
Another jarring reality came in the aftermath of the 2015 Marriage Equality Referendum. “As a member of the LGBTQ+ community you begin to see that things are not exactly as they are presented in the media.”
After the warm glow of the referendum celebrations died down, the reality of life in Ireland is that very little had changed in terms of attitudes. “We are the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote, but acts of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community happen every single day. And they can be verbal, physical and they take many shapes and ways and forms.”
Many of these fears and worries have carried through to 2021 and when it comes to workplaces and businesses, Certified Proud is about ensuring businesses have done everything they can to ensure a fair and inclusive and ultimately safe environment for LGBTQ+ people.
Talking to Redmond and Kerton it is clear some companies have asked them if they can display the Certified Proud logo on their websites, perhaps to help in their recruitment drives. However, they were politely informed that they would need to undergo the proper procedures of audit and training first.
I asked Redmond what joining the Certified Proud network would mean for a business.
“That is a really proactive step in saying that we are an ally of the LGBTQ+ community and we don’t tolerate any acts of homophobia, transphobia, biphobia or just general negative bias against the LGBTQ+ community.
“And that in itself, just joining the network, is a really powerful thing to do. It’s no longer that it’s not enough to be un-homophobic, you have to be anti-homophobic. So you need to be proactive. We need to live in a society where homophobia, biphobia, tranphobia and all those acts of hatred doesn’t exist. And the only way we can do that is if we all work together. And it’s not just about the gay man’s struggle, the trans person’s struggle, we need to come together. Everyone has a responsibility in doing that. And that what Certified Proud means for the business.”
Huckletree’s Aislinn Mahon explained what membership of Certified Proud means for the company and its network of member companies. “It’s incredibly important for us. Our partnership began earlier this year and even in the space of a couple of months we’ve already learned so much and made significant changes to how we operate.
“In Dublin alone we have 56 different companies working within the Academy Building on Pearse Street. There are lots of different people, lots of different values and opinions and cultures as well.
“We want anybody who come to work from Huckletree to come in and feel comfortable and be able to behave and carry themselves without having to shield elements of their personality. We just want everyone to be able to bring their full selves to work and for it to really be a safe and inclusive place to work from.”
She added: “As Liam said, it’s not just about speaking out and saying we value diversity, it’s about putting things in place to show that you really do feel passionate about it and you’re making change. So it’s not just about Pride-washing, it’s not just once a year for rainbow flags, it’s about really looking at the policies you have, it’s about looking at the different behaviours of people in the workpsace and feeling comfortable by calling out the things that don’t sit well or that aren’t supporting everyone.”
Mahon said that audits are being conducted by Certified Proud across Huckletree’s network of six buildings; one in Dublin, four in London and one in Manchester.
“As Liam said, it isn’t just about being un-homophobic, you have to be anti-homophobic. You really need to own your own voice in the area and make your policies visible.”
For example, as a practical first step Huckletree has begun including elements of its anti-discrimination policy in membership agreements and contracts.
“So from the very beginning it’s very clear what we stand for. And that also gives us – if we do see discriminatory behaviour in the workspace, we are able to call that out and explain to someone that’s not going to be tolerated here. So, it’s really actionable. And that’s what’s important for us, that we’re not just coming up with a campaign that has no substance behind it.”
Show your Pride 365 days a year
Asked about the audit process and ensuring that Pride isn’t just something that takes place once a year or is used as a way of companies marketing themselves as inclusive workplaces, Eve Kerton said that it is fundamentally about making your non-discriminatory policies visible.
“Visibility is actually one of our core principles with Certified Proud.
“We need to remind them of the importance [of the fact] that people are dealing with these issues throughout the year, 365 days. So we want there to be a strong element of accountability.
“So while visibility is amazing and we need to celebrate that – you need to have that visibility throughout the year.
“We have created a three-pronged process to ensure that this take place throughout the year and not just that month of Pride.”
The audit process, Kerton explains, begins by setting goals and key performance indicators, including training and policy reviews, facilities reviews and there are checkpoints throughout the year to ensure that those goals are being kept on track.
Bullying and discrimination can take many forms in workplaces and all too easily an attitude or comment that can cause hurt can be fobbed off as a flippant remark. Kerton said that anti-discrimination policies should begin when employees are being onboarded into an organisation and policies need to be clear from the outset.
“A lot of companies will have anti-discrimination policies within the contracts that people sign when they get a new role. But you need to be quite clear from the outset that within that section we do not tolerate any form of discrimination. You need to actually mean whether it’s homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying and that it is not going to be tolerated. It may be just a small line but it is really super-important, that as soon as you begin this role [such behaviour] it’s not going to be accepted. So if you’re ready to make flippant comments, you can’t be surprised if you’re pulled up on it,” said Kerton.
Looking to the future Kerton and Redmond have bigger plans for Certified Proud.
“We’re aiming for world domination,” said Redmond. “You will definitely be hearing about Certified Proud for years to come. And we’re going to be here, unfortunately, for a long time because ideally, we shouldn’t exist. But we do. In Ireland we want to be as big a brand as Bord Bia, in that it is quality assured. And if you’re going into an organisation and you see the Certified Proud logo, you know it’s going to be a safe place for the community.”
Main image at top: Liam Redmon and Eve Kerton from Certified Proud
By John Kennedy (email@example.com)
Published: 4 June 2021