Pride Month 2022 is still on the back foot, but for many brands, corporate advocacy for LGBTQ+ communities has been postponed until next year.
It’s a familiar sight: Every June, an abundance of companies — and seemingly every year more and more — roll out rainbow logos, and employ a “come as you are” marketing strategy to sell everything from Skittles to vodka. is designed for. Once the party is over, that “support” often stops.
Real ally is an ongoing commitment – especially when the stakes are so high. New legislation that threatens LGBTQ+ Americans is emerging nationally. Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which limits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, went into effect July 1. cry v. Wade’s dismantling a week earlier, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the court should “reconsider” the currently codified rights to same-sex relationships, same-sex marriage and contraceptive access.
All things considered, an audit of corporate affiliations seems urgent. Which brands were waving rainbow flags a few weeks ago, are actively raising LGBTQ+ people today, and which were only in it for queer credit?
More importantly, how can you tell the difference?
performance aides? Or real support?
A catchy phrase for companies that actually use Pride Month for capital gains to support LGBTQ+ people, if nothing else. This is called “rainbow washing”.
This happens in varying degrees. Some companies sell Pride-themed merchandise as well as funding campaigns for anti-LGBTQ+ leaders; Others present at their company as pro-pride, counting the few (or not) queer and trans employees.
The fact is, there’s a lot of money to be made by marketing to LGBTQ+ Americans—the purchasing power of this community will reach $1.4 trillion in 2021, according to the nonprofit Pride Co-op. Many companies are “hijacking the celebration … for transaction value,” says Diane Primo, founder of Purpose Brands Agency. “That is, I’m going to sell you something, and you’re going to give me money, and that’s it.”
Walmart, for one, has a “Pride and Joy” landing page filled with rainbow merch, but it has no real information about where the bulk of its income is going (except, presumably, to Walmart).
And while a Walmart press release says it donated $500,000 this year to grassroots LGBTQ+ organization PFLAG, it’s missing from an ongoing list (284 as of this writing) that have contributed to the human rights campaign ( HRC) has signed the “Anti-Anti-Anti-Protesting Business Statement”. LGBTQ state legislation. Meanwhile, in Arizona, where Walmart is headquartered, about 30 LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced this year alone. (Walmart provided Money with information related to its 2021 LGBTQ+ collaborative initiative, but did not accept our request for an interview regarding ongoing projects).
Maybe one of the most memorable Pride campaigns of late was Verizon’s “Love Calls Back,” which encouraged reconnection with LGBTQ+ members in families with strained relationships. The wireless company partnered with PFLAG for the start of 2019, and to this day, Verizon remains the organization’s corporate partner.
The company also offers its strategies for workplace inclusivity, including an employee resource group called PRISM, through which the company provides opportunities for outreach and volunteering, youth crisis counseling, and more. According to a 2022 report by Popular Information, Verizon hasn’t been so vocal about donating more than $500,000 to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians. That’s less than donations from some other wireless companies (ahem, AT&T). Still, donations fly in the face of the “inclusive world” Verizon’s forward-looking rhetoric promotes. (Verizon did not respond to Money’s request for an interview).
Recently, Pop-Tarts — a Kellogg’s brand — called in LGBTQ+ artist Thaddeus Coates to design a limited-edition Pride Box. The effort was created in collaboration with Neon, a Glad subsidiary that works exclusively for the upliftment of the black LGBTQ+ community. Grants of $10,000 each were awarded to two Bronx-based literacy advocacy groups, a grassroots LGBTQ+ org, a queer and POC-owned bar in Chicago, and an independent bookstore in California dedicated to promoting black women, women in media And specializes in showcasing gender tales – wide ones. A portion of Pride Box sales also went directly to these initiatives, and Pop-Tarts themselves contributed $100,000 to GLAAD.
But the Kellogg Company has also acted contrary to its perceived values. Like many corporate political action committees, Kellogg’s PAC has given generously to both Democrats and Republicans—many of whom are running openly anti-gay campaigns. In the current election cycle, Kellogg’s PAC has donated 36% more money to the GOP than Democrats, according to campaign finance nonprofit Open Secrets.
Unlike Walmart, Kellogg’s Is Signed the HRC statement opposing the anti-LGBTQ law. But according to Open Secrets, its PAC is also the beneficiary of three recent Republican state representatives who voted against protecting same-sex marriage last July: Troy Balderson (Ohio), Bill Huzinga (Michigan) and John Mullenar. (Michigan).
In an emailed response to questions, Kellogg emphasized its commitment to “equality, diversity and inclusion”; Citing both its employee benefit offerings (which include domestic partner benefits and adoption benefits) and corporate partnerships with LGBTQ+ organizations like GLADD. The company declined a formal interview.
Which brands are doing it right?
Let’s make one thing clear: Few, if any, corporations are innocent allies.,
There Huh Few companies go beyond colorful public imagery to act as genuine affiliates – but it takes a little bit of diligence on your part to make a company stand out. They say What it does versus what it does for LGBTQ+ people really does.
You should look for companies that:
- Donate generously to LGBTQ+ organizations, especially small nonprofits and collectives that make a direct, local impact.
- Have an Inclusive Workplace Culture
- Promote positive and diverse representation of LGBTQ+ people in your advertising campaigns throughout the year (and not just during Pride Month.)
- Don’t give money to anti-LGBTQ+ leaders
Finding a big company that marks every single one of these boxes isn’t easy (though a handful of brands, like Levi’s and Sephora, are notable exceptions). But there are plenty of smaller, LGBTQ+-owned shops that are well worth your dollar. Annual lists compiled by LGTBQ+ publications like Autostraddle, Everywhere Is Queer, and Etsy’s queer-owned business tag are all good places to start. Goodbye, a browser extension that points you in the direction of products that align with your prices (and away from big box retailers), is another stellar option.
Shopping consciously doesn’t mean you swear by every famous brand you’ve ever paid money for. More than 800 businesses earned a 100% rating from HRC’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index, which includes household names like Amazon and Adidas. That doesn’t mean those companies—or their voting records—are perfect, but since the HRC monitors things like diversity training, domestic partner benefits and transgender-inclusive benefits, it indicates progress.
When in doubt, try to look at the company’s workplace culture yourself. Is it showing up at LGBTQ+ career fairs, and actively working to hire people in the community? Does the employee handbook have guidelines about gender-affirming restroom and dress code policies? These considerations are especially important for companies like Walmart and Amazon that rely heavily on young, hourly wage workers. (According to Victoria Kirby, deputy executive director at the National Black Justice Coalition, trans youth face more challenges in finding a job than cisgender youth.)
Similarly, employee resource groups for LGBTQ+ workers – where quality of life at work can be discussed internally – is a good sign. The lack of marginalized people at the top of the organization – managers, board members, CEOs, and so on – is a bad thing.
Another way to check? Google a company name and “LGBT,” and see what pops up. When a company discriminates against a marginalized group or gives money to a politician who does so the internet usually swoops in and does its job. Everyone knows about social media Just because a brand markets itself as pro-LGBTQ+ doesn’t mean it’s actually pro-LGBTQ+.
Companies can be a force for positive change, says Mila Jaime, a musician and senior advisor at Global Trans Initiatives in Out Leadership. But adding a rainbow logo to an ad spot once a year isn’t the end goal.
The corporate associate “doesn’t end with negotiations,” says Jaime. “It ends with action.”
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