Change starts with empathy. With the capacity to understand and feel what someone else is experiencing comes motivation to take meaningful action that will benefit others. In June, Quantcast celebrates Pride with great pride, and this year we want to encourage LGBTQIA+ support that extends further than this month. One way to take meaningful action year-round is through supporting companies who go beyond “rainbow-washing” as a marketing ploy for profit. By monetarily supporting the companies that share our values, we can put our money where our hearts are.
To this end, here’s a list of 6 companies that have taken consistent actions in support of the LGBTQIA+ community:
- Gap Inc: Founded in 1969 in San Francisco, this clothing store started with a focus on inclusivity, wanting to create a “retail experience that fit for all.” They were the first retailer to offer same-sex domestic partner benefits and the first and only apparel company to sign on to a new set of global standards for business to safeguard and promote human rights for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and intersex people. Annually, Gap supports the UN Free & Equal campaign by raising awareness and funds. They have also joined the “Open to All” business pledge to send a message that everyone is welcome, valued, and respected. With a perfect score on the Human Right Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) for their workplace policies and practices, 17 years straight, Gap recently advocated for the passage of the Equality Act and updated their healthcare and benefits to provide increased coverage for transgender people.
- HP: This information technology company was the first to start an Employee Resource Group for LGBTQIA+ employees over 30 years ago. They were awarded an “Outie” award from Out & Equal Workplace Advocates to recognize their initiative in starting a movement that has grown to include groups at corporations globally, including the Pride Alliance at Quantcast. In 2004, they received another “Outie” for their “Significant Achievement” in developing a Gender Identity / Expression Toolkit for managers. Earning a 100% rating from HRC’s CEI for 17 consecutive years, HP continues to be a leader in supporting LGBTQIA+ employees through their actions and messaging, including a recent ad that prospected for new talent, featuring varied family dynamics with the tagline, “Just be you.”
- IKEA: They ran the first mainstream television commercial, featuring a gay couple shopping for furniture over 20 years ago and have continued to include gay and transgender themes in their advertising over the years. IKEA has been recognized for leading the industry with many inclusive benefits; their medical plan covers a portion of gender confirmation counseling and surgery. Joining HRC and other businesses, they filed a landmark amicus brief to advocate for Civil Rights protections for the LGBTQIA+ community, and they co-created and endorsed the UN Standards of Conduct on tackling discrimination. Since 2019, they have sold over 3.5 million rainbow bags in 26 countries with a portion of the profits going to LGBTQIA+ organizations, especially those helping homeless youth. As their Country Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer at IKEA US, Rafael Fantauzzi stated: “Unfortunately, for many LGBTQ individuals facing discrimination, stigmatization, and isolation, the four walls of a house are not always a ‘safe place.’ That’s why we’re committed to creating a more loving, accepting world–because everyone deserves to feel at HOME, every day, everywhere.”
- Microsoft: Since introducing sexual orientation into their non-discrimination policies in 1989, the technology company has driven positive change in the workplace. In 1993, they were the first Fortune 500 company to offer employee benefits to same-sex domestic partners, and they have consistently earned a perfect rating with HRC Foundation’s CEI for 16 years. Since then, Microsoft has been an advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights, both in the US, as one of the first to co-sign the Equality Act in 2015, and globally, as part of the first 15 companies to support the non-discriminatory UN Standards of Conduct for Business. In 2006, they received an “Outie” award, honoring Gleam as the Employee Resource Group of the Year, and in 2019, they received the most prestigious award for Workplace Excellence, recognizing their historic and ongoing commitment to pursuing and implementing workplace equality. With their employees, Microsoft has donated $2M+ to LGBTQIA+ organizations over the past year and were one of the first corporate donors to OutRight Action International’s COVID-19 Global LGBTIQ Emergency Fund. Recently, the tech company has been working to make gaming welcoming for all by designing Xbox to be a more diverse and inclusive place to play.
- Nike: Over the past 18 years, the sports apparel and footwear retailer has received a perfect score on HRC Foundation’s CEI and recently signed their Business Statement Opposing Anti-LGBTQ State Legislation. In 2016, Nike terminated their long-term endorsement of boxer Manny Pacquiao after he made derogatory remarks about same-sex couples. Since 2021, Nike has annually released their Be True collection, and this year’s design, “inspired by the idea that sport can be the setting for radical inclusivity,” allows consumers to customize their sneaker to represent their own gender identity and / or sexual identity with a spectrum of 9 LGBTQIA+ flags. The brand puts a significant amount of their earnings back into the community: in 2021, they are donating $500K to 20 LGBTQIA+ organizations with a focus on advocacy in sports, and over the last 5 years, they have invested $130 million in communities around the world to help promote equality and “level the playing field for all.”
- United: This US airline carrier was the first to fully recognize domestic partnerships and provide comprehensive fringe benefits nationwide in 1999. Since marriage legalization, which they supported by signing an amicus brief, they’ve expanded their benefits, making them fully equitable. United joined the Business Coalition for the Equality Act and, in 2019, became the first US airline to offer non-binary gender options throughout its booking channels. In recognition of their commitment to LGBTQIA+ equality, they were the first public company to be inducted into Pride Live’s Stonewall Ambassador program. Scoring 100 for a decade on HRC Foundation’s CEI, United also supports the LGBTQIA+ community beyond their workplace, partnering with groups like the National Gay Pilots Association, taking a stand against bullying with GLAAD’s Spirit Day, and raising money to support local organizations.
But we’ve only scratched the surface in highlighting these 6 global brands: with more and more companies showing support for the LGBTQIA+ community in proactive and substantive ways, consumer choices have expanded, allowing us to handpick whom we want to support with our money. For example, Yelp makes it easier to patronize local LGBTQIA+ businesses by offering a new feature that allows business owners to self-identify as LGBTQIA+-owned, empowering us to mindfully direct our dollars locally as well as globally.
Microsoft coined it “the rainbow ripple effect,” an apt description of how small actions taken by companies and consumers can propagate outward and lead to greater change. As Pride Month comes to an end, I encourage everyone to continue its momentum and make conscious efforts to support our LGBTQIA+ community members and their businesses year-round.
During Pride Month, we spotlighted the executive sponsor of Pride Alliance, Quantcast’s VP of Product, Somer Simpson, on Finding Her Way in Tech as a woman, lesbian, and with a thick accent from the southern region of the US. You can also learn about 3 Ways to Support the LGBTQ+ Community at Work.