Are You Rainbow Washing?

Every LGBTQIA+ Pride season, we see many companies demonstrate their support for  the queer community by modifying their logo and merchandise with rainbow colours  and/or imagery. But are some of them just monetizing the rainbow? 

We often refer to green and blue washing in the ESG-universe, but there’s also the act  of “rainbow washing”. Rainbow washing can be defined as using rainbows in advertising  or branding to indicate support for the LGBTQIA+ Community, but with minimum effort  or support throughout the year. 

Many companies, particularly during Pride months, will transform their logos and  merchandise into rainbow versions, highlighting members of the queer community or  alluding to LGBTQIA+ organisations they support without evidence, as they chase “pink”  money (the purchasing power of the LGBTQIA+ community). 

Pride month is a big deal for brands, given the booming LGBTQIA+ consumer landscape. Forbes 2022, conservatively estimates the queer community as the fastest growing  ‘minority’ segment spending at $1.4 trillion annually in the United States. According to  GAY TIMES analysis (using a combination IPSOS and UN Population data) the population  of LGBTQIA+ people is predicted to hit 1 billion globally by 2050. As per a Gallup Poll in  February 2022, one in five Gen Z adults identify as queer. As NextGen comprise of an  increasing share of the population, people who identify as queer could make up 15% of  the adult population as “the increasing number of young adults self-identifying as  LGBTQIA+ underscores changing societal norms”. 

The Pride flag represents the queer community’s long history of resilience against  oppression and strife. The monetisation of the flag waters down the message of Pride to  amplify queer voices and raise awareness for LGBTQIA+ issues.  

BIG is here for every flag waved and proud to have a BIG rainbow, but that’s not where  the support should stop, and it certainly shouldn’t be ending when the parade ends.  

BIG CEO & Founder, Ivy Lumia, had a chance to sit down with Rob Smith, CEO & Founder  of The Phluid Project, the world’s first gender-free store and movement dedicated to  challenging limiting gender stereotypes. Rob’s also the founder of GET Phluid (a cross industry leader in corporate education, strategic advisory and community impact at the  vanguard of LGBTQ+ market and talent excellence) and The Phluid Phoundation (an  organization dedicated to supporting the most at risk of the LGBTQIA+ community  supporting trans-led organizations and homeless queer youth).

Ivy & Rob are both very passionate about the critical importance of an organization’s  governance of LGBTQIA+ matters at every level, from the Board and Executive  leadership’s oversight and decision-making through to the employees’ grass-led  movements. Organizations need to ensure that at every level there is an ability to  support and empower the queer community and educate the organization and its  stakeholders, as a whole. 

“As we head into the month of June, we look for companies that show up with  authenticity. Of course parades and parties are fun opportunities to celebrate queer joy  and allyship, but it’s also important to show a commitment through community  engagement with donations and volunteering along with corporate education and  training. Most importantly, if a corporation has supported us in the past and is leaning in  again this year, thank you. This is a moment when we need support more than ever. We  ask for unwavering support in good times and in challenging times. Find your strength,  courage and conviction and make us PROUD. And remember, we are queer all year and  look toward opportunities to thrive every single day.” Rob said. 

So, what can companies and Boards do to support and empower the LGBTQIA+ community? 

Ensure there are anti-racist/anti-harassment policies and action;

Enable alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for conduct; 

Ensure there is education available organization-wide (from workforce to C-Suite  and Board); 

Ensure talent is paid equitably; 

Deepen recruitment pools; 

Foster a safe working environment; and 

Establish long-term partnerships with non-profits or socially-responsible  corporates. 

At BIG, we understand that Pride isn’t just one month. It’s all day, every day, every  month, forever more. It’s the ongoing celebration of equity, diversity and inclusion that  culminates in the beautiful tapestry of society that we are all a part of.  

If you just wave a flag around for one month, hit a few parades and chase pink money,  this is not on-going, active support with transparent and measurable action.  

BIG is proud to be a champion of the LGBTQIA+ Community and takes pride in  supporting socially conscious partnerships and fostering education and awareness. 

So, wave those flags proudly people, but wave it all year and back it up!

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