This year’s Pride Month — which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots — takes on heightened significance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. As diversity and inclusion dominate industry conversation, retailers and brands are stepping up en masse with missions of purpose over pushing products. But cashing in on the rainbow without giving back to the community sends a tone-deaf message that could damage a brand’s credibility with LGBTQ shoppers — and its bottom line.
“The days of simply slapping a rainbow on your packaging and calling yourself ‘LGBT-friendly’ are long gone,” said Justin Nelson, president and co-founder, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “The community demands a yearlong, enterprise wide commitment to the LGBT community within the company and in every market the company hopes to engage.”
One of the key drivers of consumer loyalty is when a business demonstrates support for pro- LGBTQ anti-discrimination policies, Nelson added. This month, Congress passed the LGBTQ Equality Act, which will give civil rights protections to such individuals if the measure is later approved by the Senate. ConverseInc., Macy’s Inc. and Under Armour Inc. are among the 161 corporate sponsors — a stark contrast to when the bill was introduced four years ago and the only companies publicly supporting the measure were Apple, The Dow Chemical Co. and Levi Strauss & Co.
During the fight for same-sex-marriage equality in 2015, the cause also received elevated support from major companies — no doubt fueled by greater public interest in the issue. Nike Inc., Amazon and Target Corp were among the 379 corporations that petitioned the Supreme Court in a friend-of-the-court brief to strike down state bans.
“All of these companies understand in various degrees that [issues-based activism] is a business driver,” said Todd Sears, founder of Out Leadership, an advisory firm that helps companies grow business through LGBTQ inclusion. In fact, a majority of Americans look to corporations to take the lead on social causes as public trust in government has waned to historic lows; only 17% of Americans say they trust politicians to do what is right, according to the Pew Research Center. Read more via FN