Fact Sheet #2a) Organizational Messaging

Level 1

Element: Communication and Consultation

Outcome 2: Consultation and communication begins regarding anti-discrimination and employment equity matters.

Indicator 2a): Organization has released messaging that supports anti-discrimination and employment equity to its employees.

Possible Measures and Data Sources:

  • Reference to employment equity strategy in speeches and internal communications made by senior leadership (e.g., newsletters and promotional materials).
  • Anti-discrimination materials distributed to staff (basic information on what is harassment, what is discrimination, how to file a complaint, internal redress, etc.).

Indicator Description

An organization can underline the importance of human rights by making human rights content part of its organizational message, and can demonstrate respect for human rights by delivering all messages in appropriate, accessible and respectful forms.  

An “organizational message” is the underlying meaning conveyed by an organization in all of its internal and external modes of communicating with senior managers, employees, customers and stakeholders. Organizational messaging forms part of the identity of a business, and communicates how that business views itself, its purposes, its relationships with other organizations, and its place in the wider culture. In making its organizational message an embodiment of human rights culture, an organization is demonstrating its social and legal commitments to all of its stakeholders that are the foundation of a culture of respect, diversity, and equality of opportunity.

Fostering a human rights culture through organizational messaging means that the organization’s communications make clear that anti-discrimination and employment equity are relevant to the whole organization, and are not just concerns of the human resources sector.

Suggested Approach

An organization can develop a message through all of its communications that it aims to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. In moving from Level 1 to higher levels within the Human Rights Maturity Modele (the Model), the organization can build on the idea that, although discrimination can perhaps never be eliminated entirely, it is by advancing beyond simple reduction of discrimination that an organization becomes an industry leader.

At Level 1, an organization can develop a communications strategy to build a business case for employment equity;[1] such a strategy will emphasize that employment equity can:

  • build a competitive advantage from a diverse workforce: a more diverse workforce can have stronger links to emerging markets and opportunities in the wider community; a diverse workplace also has access to a greater range of experiences, knowledge and creativity within its ranks;
  • foster greater productivity: staff who feel recognized and represented within their workplace tend to be more invested in their work and display an interest in career-building within the organization; in addition, workplaces where diversity and anti-discrimination measures are pursued actively tend to be more healthy overall;
  • improve recruitment, retention and loyalty: a diverse workplace can draw on wider pool within the community in recruiting, and staff tend to remain in healthier workplaces longer;
  • meet investors expectations: as awareness of human rights increases in the wider community, greater emphasis will be placed on responsible corporate action; investors will have greater confidence in those organizations which show greater maturity in their handling of matters relating to diversity and human rights;
  • increase stakeholder engagement and community profile: the organization can be recognized for its activity supporting diversity within the community, and increase the level of trust that stakeholders have for the organization; and
  • reduce costs associated with non-compliance: human rights legislation is “the law of the land”; there are financial burdens connected with contravention of both anti-discrimination and employment equity legislation; by embedding human rights and employment equity considerations into core business activities, organizations can reduce costs associated with absenteeism, insurance premiums, bullying and other health and safety issues, as well as reducing costs tied directly to complaint management.

Promising Practices

  • Communication: Promote barrier-free, bias-free communications at all levels, and ensures that communications are available in multiple formats.
  • Language lexicon: Make a respectful language lexicon available as part of the organization's human resources and communications policies.
  • Ask for people’s preferences: The organization ensures that it can address all employees, stakeholders, and members of the public, in terms that the person himself or herself favours.  Where a particular need arises to mention an employee’s membership in a particular cultural, linguistic, religious or other group, respectful communication can include asking “How should I address you?” or “What should I call you?”.
  • Presenting images of diversity reflective of the larger community: In organization’s communications products, online images of the public can include diverse representations of different ethnic, religious and cultural groups.
  • Diversity and Inclusion Report: Produce an annual Diversity & Inclusion Report focusing on the organization’s efforts to nurture an inclusive and respectful workplace. The organization’s web site can focus on the competitive advantage of a human rights work culture. The organization uses its online communications to highlight partnerships with diversity groups in the wider community.

Useful links and tools

Canadian Human Rights Commission

Employment Equity Act

Canadian Human Rights Act

The following links explore some dimensions of using respectful language in the workplace:

Cultural Competence: A Guide to Organizational Change (includes a Glossary of terms relating to diversity, human rights, and building cultural awareness) – Government of Alberta

A Way with Words and Images - Suggestions for the portrayal of persons with disabilities - Employment and Social Development Canada

Words First – An Evolving Terminology Relating to Aboriginal Peoples in Canada - Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

Terminology - Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada

Guidelines for Non-Sexist Usage - Canadian Linguistic Association

Avoiding Heterosexual Bias in Language - American Psychological Association

Find out more about accessible web design:

Web Accessibility Initiative - W3C

Getting Started with Web Accessibility - W3C

The following link connects to a publication on making a business case for enhancing corporate engagement on human rights. Of particular interest is the section on The IBLF publication entitled Human Rights: It is Your Business


This fact sheet was developed in part using material from the International Business Leaders Forum, sponsored by the Prince of Wales.

The IBLF publication entitled Human Rights: It is Your Business The case for corporate engagement by Lucy Amis, Peter Brew and Caroline Ersmarker is available online through http:

The IBLF publication entitled Human Rights: It is Your Business

Advanced the business case for human rights

[1]The IBLF publication entitled Human Rights: It is Your Business The case for corporate engagement by Lucy Amis, Peter Brew and Caroline Ersmarker is available online through

The IBLF publication entitled Human Rights: It is Your Business

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