true intent – pride month

true intent – why support for pride month should be demonstrably authentic

Brands have been quick to support Pride Month with their messaging, but the best organisations have been showing a deeper commitment to LGBTQ+ causes.

There are some very good reasons why businesses should support Pride Month. Cynics might say the biggest of these is financial. The LGBTQ+ community represents a considerable well of spending power, so sponsoring, supporting or simply incorporating rainbow messages into marketing collateral makes sound commercial sense.

That’s the theory. But in reality, support for Pride Month in particular and the LGBTQ+ community in general can backfire if the initiative is perceived as opportunistic rather than genuine. It’s really a question of intent. Put simply, if a business backs Pride Month simply as a marketing exercise, it is likely to be greeted by accusations of  “rainbow-washing.” If, however, a company is genuinely seeking to positively engage with issues around diversity, inclusion and social justice – backed up by practical help – the chances are its efforts will be welcomed and indeed celebrated. 

But what does that mean in practice? 

Well, the first thing that must be said is that brands should be very wary indeed – both morally and commercially – of appropriating a cause simply to serve their own interests. As defined by the Urban Dictionary, rainbow-washing is the practice of incorporating LGBTQ+ friendly messaging to indicate support for a progressive cause but falling short of doing anything practical to help or deliver change.  

However, if a brand not only declares but demonstrates a practical commitment to LGBTQ+ causes, scepticism tends to evaporate.

Beyond Messaging  

There’s no single “right” way to approach support for Pride Month, but there are some general points that can be made.

First and foremost, no one can really look into the minds of – say – brand managers to establish the intent behind their support for the Pride cause. But what you can certainly do is look at the business in the round and ask a simple question: does the Pride and LBGTQ+ messaging reflect something fundamental and progressive about the company in question? 

To take an example, fashion brand Burberry has produced a range of Rainbow-branded clothing. That in itself might attract accusations of the “rainbow-washing” but there is much more happening below the surface. 

In addition, Burberry has made financial donations to a range of organisations that are themselves dedicated to driving positive change, notably the Albert Kennedy Trust, which provides emergency services and resources for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Microsoft is a very different company, but it takes a similar multi-faceted approach. Most visibly, the company has created Pride themes for a wide range of products, including the Xbox, Surface devices, 365 software and Skype.

But again, there is also practical support. The software and hardware giant has donated $150,000 to organisations around the world that are campaigning for LGBTQ+ equity.

From the Inside Out

Support for Pride can be demonstrated at multiple levels within organisations, not least in terms of employee policies. 

For instance, Burberry has taken steps with its own organisation to eradicate any lingering discrimination against LGBQT+ employees as part of a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Barclays Bank has also been a leader in this regard. Laura Padovani, Barclay’s Chief Compliance Officer, has publicly stated the bank’s intention of supporting gay bisexual and transgender people – particularly in difficult times, such as the Covid pandemic – during which vulnerable groups often feel isolated. Within the organisation, the Out to Drive Change agenda is aimed at equipping managers to support LGBTQ+ colleagues.  

This can extend to creating communities internally. This is something that Google has been very strong on. Almost as a point of principle, the company has encouraged staff to not only socialise but create mutual-interest groups to pursue activities such as cycling. This has most definitely been embraced by Google’s LGBTQ+ colleagues who banded together to embrace the Pride Agenda.  Among the wider pool of employees, support for Google’s “Gayglers” is very strong. 

Thus, when brands such as these act as sponsors of a Pride event, they have a record of support that goes much deeper. If support for Pride Month is to mean anything, organisations should be prepared to go the extra mile. Donations and a commitment to inclusive workplace culture are powerful signals of intent.