Smart companies emphasize diversity, inclusion, transparency and community engagement in the workplace. Doing so advances human rights — and is good for business. These finalists for the 2015 Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence are three examples.

Goldman Sachs Hong Kong

The 2015 Pink Dot Hong Kong event, co-sponsored by Goldman Sachs, attracted more than 15,000 people to support LGBT rights. (Courtesy of Goldman Sachs Hong Kong)

“There is a strong business case for an inclusive work environment,” says Ron Lee. As head of private wealth management in the Asia-Pacific for Goldman Sachs, Lee is responsible for helping his company turn a profit. As co-chair of the firm’s Asia Pacific Diversity Committee, he also is responsible for helping to eliminate barriers that some Goldman employees face.

Back in 2005, Goldman Sachs (Asia) LLC in Hong Kong launched a network to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. It’s grown from five to 140 members and promotes greater inclusion through activities like Pride March and a quiz night, along with other initiatives.

“Goldman Sachs has been very supportive of LGBTI issues in Hong Kong for many years,” said Gordon Wong of the LGBT coalition Pink Alliance. It’s even advocated for greater legal protection in Hong Kong against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

One benefit to the company: Non-LGBT individuals who stand up for LGBT rights go on to propose many new, inclusive initiatives at Goldman Sachs Hong Kong.

For Lee, the bottom line is simple: “People perform better when they can be themselves.”

Newmont Ghana

With startup funds and training from Newmont, Naomi started a bakery and now employs two of her sisters. (Courtesy of Newmont Ghana)

In Ghana, Newmont Ghana Gold Limited operates two gold mines. In keeping those mines safe, it emphasizes a rights-based approach, participating in the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights initiative.

“I was impressed with the quality of the training,” said an NGO member of the initiative. “Focusing on community engagement and dialogue to resolve issues peacefully in the first instance, along with regular coordination between security and community relations teams, stands as an example of good industry practice within Ghana, as well as globally.”

Newmont Ghana promotes security best practices, contributes to safety initiatives and supports the economic development of the surrounding communities: It has contributed $24 million to community-owned infrastructure projects and extended $150,000 in microcredit to local small businesses.

“Newmont Ghana has made a great impact on the people of Ghana,” said Teddy Brown, deputy superintendent of police in Ghana’s Kenyasi District.

Cargill Vietnam

Cargill’s schools in rural Vietnam support tens of thousands of students. (Courtesy of Cargill Vietnam)

The next time you purchase sustainably sourced chocolate, it may come from Vietnam. That’s where, in 2004, Cargill Vietnam Ltd. spotted an opportunity to establish cocoa farms and improve the livelihoods of Vietnamese farmers. Working with other cocoa producers, the company developed an independent certification system that benefits the environment and offers cocoa farmers and exporters a high premium for their crops.

Cargill has also introduced marketing, financing and information systems to help farmers prosper in a new industry. To combat corruption and ensure farmers receive the best prices, the company implemented a system of websites, text messaging and TV broadcasts to reduce farmers’ reliance on middlemen.

Now there are 40,000 cocoa farmers in the country, and the government of Vietnam plans to quadruple cocoa cultivation by 2020.

Cargill Vietnam has also built 76 new schools in rural communities, serving tens of thousands of children. “We are at the forefront in helping to improve Vietnam’s rural economy,” says Managing Director Jorge Becerra. “Our aim is to extend our school building program to another 24 more schools by 2020.”

Goldman Sachs Hong Kong, Newmont Ghana and Cargill Vietnam are finalists for the 2015 Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence in the Human Rights and Labor Rights category. Started in 1999, the awards recognize American companies that are leaders in responsible business practices.