Pride Month 2022 is still in retrospect, but for many brands, corporate advocacy for LGBTQ+ communities has already been pushed back to next year.
It’s a familiar scene: Each June, a plethora of companies — and it seems to be growing every year — come out with the rainbow logos and a come-as-you-are marketing strategy designed to sell everything from Skittles to vodka . When the party is over, that “support” often dies down.
True allies are an ongoing commitment—especially when the stakes are so high. Nationally, new laws are emerging that threaten LGBTQ+ Americans. Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law, which restricts discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, went into effect July 1. After the dismantling of Roe v. Wade a week earlier, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the court “should reconsider” the current codified rights to same-sex relationships, same-sex marriage and access to contraception.
All in all, an examination of the corporate alliance seems urgent. Which brands that waved rainbow flags a few weeks ago are actively uplifting LGBTQ+ people today, and which were there just for queer credibility?
More importantly, how can you tell the difference?
Performative Alliance? Or real support?
There’s a catchy phrase for companies that use Pride Month for capital gains while doing little or nothing to actually support LGBTQ+ people. It’s called “rainbow washing”.
This happens to varying degrees. Some companies sell Pride merchandise while funding anti-LGBTQ+ politicians’ campaigns; others pose as pro-pride while counting few (or no) queer and transgender employees at their company.
The fact is, there’s a lot of money to be made from marketing to LGBTQ+ Americans — according to the nonprofit Pride Co-op, the spending power of this community reached $1.4 trillion in 2021. Many companies “hijack the celebration… for transaction value,” says Diane Primo, founder of Purpose Brand Agency. “It means I sell you something and you give me money and that’s it.”
Walmart, for example, has a “Pride & Joy” landing page that’s chock full of rainbow merch, but doesn’t really have any information on where the bulk of its revenue goes (other than presumably to Walmart).
And while a press release from Walmart states that it donated $500,000 to grassroots LGBTQ+ organization PFLAG this year, it’s missing from the running list of brands (284 at the time of this writing) making the “Business Statement Opposing Anti – LGBTQ state legislation.” Meanwhile, in Arizona, where Walmart is headquartered, almost 30 anti-LGBTQ+ laws were introduced this year alone. (Walmart provided Money with information on its LGBTQ+ alliance initiatives in 2021, but did not accept our request for an interview on ongoing projects).
Perhaps one of the most memorable Pride campaigns in recent memory was Verizon’s “Love Calls Back,” which encouraged families with strained relationships with LGBTQ+ members to reconnect. The wireless company partnered with PFLAG for its 2019 debut, and to this day, Verizon is a corporate partner of the organization.
The company also promotes its workplace inclusion strategies, which includes an employee resource group called PRISM, through which the company offers outreach and volunteering opportunities, youth crisis counseling and more. However, according to a 2022 report by Popular Information, Verizon hasn’t been as vocal about its donations of more than $500,000 to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians. That’s less than donations from some other wireless companies (ahem, AT&T). Still, the donations go against the “inclusive world” that Verizon promotes with its forward-looking rhetoric. (Verizon did not respond to Money’s request for an interview).
Recently, Pop-Tarts – a Kellogg’s brand – brought in LGBTQ+ artist Thaddeus Coates to create a limited edition Pride box. This endeavor was created in partnership with NEON, a subsidiary of GLAAD specifically dedicated to empowering the Black LGBTQ+ community. Grants of $10,000 each went to a Bronx-based literacy advocacy group, an LGBTQ+ grassroots organization, a queer and POC-owned bar in Chicago, and an independent bookstore in California specializing in media, in which stories about black women, femmes and gender are presented. expansive people. A portion of Pride Box sales also went directly to these initiatives, and Pop-Tarts itself donated $100,000 to GLAAD.
But the Kellogg Company has also acted against its alleged values. Like many corporate political action committees, Kellogg’s PAC has given generously to both Democrats and Republicans — with many of the latter running openly anti-gay campaigns. In the current election cycle, Kellogg’s PAC has donated 36% more money to the GOP than to the Democrats for campaign funding, according to nonprofit organization Open Secrets.
Unlike Walmart, Kellogg Has signed HRC’s statement against anti-LGBTQ legislation. But according to Open Secrets, his PAC is also a new benefactor to three Republican state officials who voted against protecting same-sex marriage last July: Troy Balderson (Ohio), Bill Huzienga (Michigan) and John Moolenaar (Michigan).
In an email response to questions, Kellogg emphasized his commitment to “equality, diversity and inclusion.” citing its offerings of employee benefits (which include domestic partner benefits and adoption benefits) and corporate partnerships with LGBTQ+ organizations such as GLADD. The company declined a formal interview.
Which brands do it right?
Let’s get one thing straight: few, if any, companies are flawless allies.
there are Some companies that go beyond colorful public imagery to act as true allies – but it takes a little care on your part to distinguish what kind of company says it does for LGBTQ+ people compared to what it does actually does.
You should look for companies that:
- Donate generously to LGBTQ+ organizations, especially smaller nonprofits and collectives that are making a direct, local impact.
- Ensure an inclusive work culture
- Encourage positive and diverse representations of LGBTQ+ people in your advertising campaigns year-round (and not just during Pride month).
- Don’t give money to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians
Finding a great company that fits all of these criteria isn’t easy (although a handful of brands like Levi’s and Sephora are notable exceptions). But there are plenty of smaller LGBTQ+ owned shops that are more than worth your dollar. Annual lists compiled by LGTBQ+ publications like Autostraddle, Everywhere Is Queer, and Etsy’s queer-owned business tag are good places to start. Goodbuy, a browser extension that alerts you to products that match your values (and away from big retailers), is another standout option.
Conscious shopping doesn’t have to mean swearing off every well-known brand you’ve ever given money to. Over 800 companies received a 100% score from HRC’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index, including well-known names such as Amazon and Adidas. That doesn’t mean these companies — or their voting records — are perfect, but with HRC keeping tabs on things like diversity training, partner benefits and transgender benefits, it does point to progress.
When in doubt, try to familiarize yourself with a company’s workplace culture. Is it showing up at LGBTQ+ career fairs and actively working to hire people from the community? Does the employee handbook include gender reassignment toilet guidelines and dress code guidelines? These considerations are particularly important for companies like Walmart and Amazon, which rely heavily on hourly young workers. (According to Victoria Kirby, deputy executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, trans youth face greater challenges than cisgender youth when trying to find work.)
Likewise, employee resource groups for LGBTQ+ employees, in which the quality of life in the workplace can be discussed internally, are a good sign. A lack of marginalized people at the top of the organization—managers, board members, CEOs, and so on—is bad.
Another way of investigating? Google a company’s name and “LGBT” and see what comes up. When a company discriminates against a marginalized group — or gives money to a politician who does so — the internet usually collapses and does its thing by allowing it all social media know That just because a brand markets itself as pro-LGBTQ+ doesn’t mean it is actually pro-LGBTQ+.
Businesses can be a force for positive change, says Mila Jam, musician and Senior Advisor of Global Trans Initiatives at Out Leadership. But adding a rainbow logo to a once-a-year commercial isn’t the end goal.
Corporate connection “don’t end with a conversation,” says Jam. “It ends with action.”
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