Fact Sheet #25a) Communication and Human Rights Lens

Level 4

Element: Communication and Consultation

Outcome 25: Organizational communications are filtered through a human rights lens.

Indicator 25a): Appreciation for human rights and diversity is built into and practiced by organizational communications.

Possible Measures and Data Sources:

  • Inclusion of diversity beyond the designated group members in annual report, brochures, etc.
  • Inclusion of diversity beyond designated group members in internal communications (employee newsletter, intranet, etc.).

Indicator Description

An organization can demonstrate its dedication and appreciation of human rights and diversity by incorporating certain practices within the organizational communications strategy. At Level 1, an organization has started to communicate its vision regarding anti-discrimination and employment equity and has started to consult with employees and unions regarding employment equity and the handling of complaints. At Level 2, the organization communicates its policies and practices, as well as tools, processes and resources available to its managers and employees to foster a human rights friendly environment. At Level 3, the organization is building on its internal successes and expanding its communication strategy, related to human rights, in order to reach its clients in addition to its stakeholders. A Level 4 organization would ensure that all communications (internal and external) are seen through a human rights lens.  That is, human rights and diversity are inherently linked with the communication plan. The organization will be more accepting and open to broadening its perspectives and learning about diversity in the workplace. This will become a ‘win–win situation’. An organization can benefit from having diversity and inclusion practices built into and practiced by all in the workplace and workforce. Inclusion engages each individual and shows that he or she is of value and contributes to the success of the organization.

For example, some organizations have developed tools that promote and focus on diversity. They are using a human rights or diversity lens for all interactions within the workforce and workplace. [1] Specifically, these tools were developed in collaboration with other external partners in order to ensure that they reach and are accessible to as many people as possible (workplace, workforce and targeted groups of the general population). [2]

Suggested Approach

  • Use a human rights lens approach, when developing a communications plan, and ask questions or develop a checklist that could include the following: 
    • Is the existing information available to the public up-to-date?
    • Is this information described in something easy to transport and carry?
    • Is this information accessible in the workplace?
    • Is the information available in different formats – online, print, Braille, alternate languages?
    • Does the organization have access to information about the various cultures, religions, etc., within the community? Does the organization use this information to assist in the development of relevant communication materials?
    • Are the materials and information presented in plain language?
    • Are brochures and newsletters brief and to the point?
    • Are there concepts or terms, in written materials, that may be culturally specific and need to be defined to make them more accessible to the workplace and workforce?
    • Are existing materials regularly reviewed and assessed for bias? Are appropriate changes made after this regular review?
    • Do pictures used in communication materials portray a representation of diversity within the community?
    • Does the organization have pictures/posters depicting diversity in the workplace?  Is this visible to guests and/or clients?
    • Are the positions of individuals from underserved groups portrayed equitably? Who is in foreground, first/last, served or being served?
  • Develop a plan and/or checklist to measure the progress of diversity in the organization by asking:
    • Employee perception – What do employees think about their organization as an employer?
    • Public perception – How does the public view the organization?
    • Leadership – What is the organization’s reputation in the market?
    • Business integration – How is diversity incorporated in the organization’s day-to-day activities?
    • Work-force representation – What is the representation of groups (visible or non-visible minorities) at various levels of the organization?

Promising Practices


  • Sharing diversity information on website: An international software organizationindicate they continuously celebrate diversity and acknowledge value and respect diversity and believe that diversity in the workplace allows them to be a leader in innovation. This organization believes that by having more diversity in the workplace, it removes barriers and allows employees to reach their personal and professional goals. This allows them to attract the best and brightest employees and uncover business opportunities. This organization clearly shares this view with its employees, investors, shareholders on their website and in their annual report. This organization indicates that they appreciate diversity and it is seen as a competitive strength and a power point towards leadership.
  • Create an action plan: A Canadian university prepared a presentation to summarize a list of the activities the university was developing to support equity, diversity and inclusion, for students, faculty and staff. The university created an action plan, which was shared with students, faculty and staff to get feedback on how to proceed and implement. The university provided in their action plan a number of names and websites for councils, associations, committees. They requested that all students, faculty and staff review the action plan and provide them with their comments and suggestions to “fill in” the gaps. The university clearly indicated that this was a work in progress and wanted this to be a profitable initiative for all.
  • Conduct an annual diversity survey and create diversity networks: A worldwide organization that assists consumers and organizations to secure and manage their information-driven world, conduct an annual Diversity and Inclusion survey and the results show that 88 percent of employees (in FY2010) consider their workplace to be an inclusive workplace where race, gender, disability, religion and sexual orientation do not influence access to opportunities. This organization indicates that they have created a number of company-based networks and resources groups to support each other. A few examples include their Black Employee Network, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Allies affinity group and the Women’s Action Network.

“[The organization] diversity and inclusion efforts start at the top with an Executive Steering Committee that champions [the organization] global diversity and inclusion initiatives. We offer a variety of programs to teach our employees how to conduct business successfully in a multicultural and multiethnic world. New employees receive diversity training as part of their orientation and all employees have access to “Globe Smart” an online tool designed to raise awareness of cultural differences among people around the world. In addition, [the organization] internal diversity and inclusion website provides easy access to information on diversity issues, outreach activities and other resources.” [3]

Useful links and tools

Canadian Human Rights Commission

Employment Equity Act

Frequently Asked Questions on Employment Equity - Canadian Human Rights Commission

Employment Equity and Diversity - Public Service Commission

Canada's Commitment to Cultural Diversity - Canadian Heritage


Canada’s Best Diversity Employer’s


Wilson, Trevor, Diversity at work: the business case for equity, John Wiley & Sons Canada Limited, 1997.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Toronto

Diversity & Inclusion @ IBM – Fequently Asked Questions - IBM Canada Ltd

Diversity and Inclusion - Symantec - Corporate Responsibility

Diversity and Inclusion – Framework and Implementation Plan - City of Edmonton


[1] For example, ‘Diversity & Inclusion Framework,’ City of Edmonton,

[2] Racism Free Edmonton - City of Edmonton

[3] Symantec Corporate Responsibility

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