One in ten firms engage in Pridewash

Posted on 01/07/2019


Pride Month is over, but from LGBT+ banks to rainbow mouth wash, brands will be hoping that their rainbow capitalism and use of LGBT+ symbols will have an impact on sales.

However, with allegations of Pridewash abound, will this outbreak of rainbows have the desired effect?

Marketing experts examined 122 companies, of varying sizes, to see what LGBT+ related marketing they were doing and if this was genuine support for LGBT causes.

They found that in one in ten cases the campaign was Pridewash, where a brand tries to erase its poor record on LGBT+ rights with a marketing campaign.

Brand Pridewash

The Megabus / Stagecoach Pridewash needs no further explanation. But it goes further.

An investigation of each company’s CEI (Corporate Equality Index) score showed that over 10% of companies delivering a Pride-themed campaign scored less than 80% for their “steps to ensure greater equity for LGBTQ workers and their families in the form of comprehensive policies, benefits and practices.”

Clothing brand H&M was given a meagre CEI score of 45% by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Yet they have participated in ‘corporate pride’ this year and have launched a ‘pride collection’. Although they are donating 10% of their proceeds to support the work of the United Nations’ Free & Equal campaign.

A third (36%) didn’t even donate to charitable LGBT+ causes as a result of their campaign.

Others are caught up in hypocrisy, such as Google failing to take down homophobic films from YouTube, yet finding the money to pay for rainbow coloured burgers at the Cannes advertising festival.

Even in the public sector, the Pridewash doesn’t stop.

The UK’s Home Office, responsible for border security, is happy to change its Twitter icon to a rainbow. Yet is actively deporting LGBT+ asylum seekers who will face persecution on return.

Despite its sponsorship of London Pride, British Airways are responsible for deporting these individuals in some cases. Unlike Virgin Atlantic, which has refused to deport LGBT+ detainees.

The media is also not exempt, analysis of The Times’ news output showed that they post a transphobic news story almost every day, while happily calling out brands’ “virtue signalling” for not supporting LGBT+ rights.

LGBT+ Community Reaction

Understandably, this has caused a stir in the LGBT+ community, with 87% of those questioned by Rebootonline stating that all corporations should be donating proceeds to relevant charities.

Indeed, the LGBT+ community was unanimous in thinking that corporations should “do more throughout the year to help LGBT+ causes, rather than just for Pride month”, with 96% of respondents agreeing with this sentiment.

In this 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, it’s important to remember that Pride was set up to be a societal and political statement.

With hate crime against the trans community up 81% and the shocking gay-bashing of a couple on a London bus, brands should refrain from rainbow capitalism unless they really want to help make the lives of LGBT+ better.

A version of this story first appeared on GritDaily. Image: H&M