Beyond a Rainbow Logo: How businesses can better support the LGBTQ community

10 June 2022

Written by Brady Flynn, Intern at Business for Peace Foundation

The calendar shifts to June and social media is instantly flooded with colours of the rainbow as many companies begin to show their support for LGBTQ+ Pride month. Companies across all sectors do a vibrant new aesthetic for 30 days, often paired with a public statement in support of LGBTQ+ inclusion.

These public statements are to be applauded, as such widespread corporate support of LGBTQ+ issues is something that has only emerged in the last decade. But consumers and corporations alike must look beyond a rainbow logo to see how the private sector can better leverage their influence to create an empowering, safer, more accepting world for LGBTQ+ people.

Companies should focus on both internal inclusion efforts and public support if they are to be deemed as true allies of the LGBTQ+ community.

Build a company culture

Even in countries with strong legal protections, many LGBTQ+ employees choose to remain closeted at their workplaces. In the US, nearly half of LGBTQ+ employees choose not to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity at work (Human Rights Report).

Businesses must ask themselves: Do employees see their workplace as a safe environment to openly be themselves?

There are many practical steps that can foster a more inclusive work environment. This extends to workplace protections being spelled out specifically for LGBTQ+ individuals, seeing that any benefits (such as healthcare and parental leave) are implemented in a way that includes same-sex couples and transgender individuals, as well as stressing the use and respect of gender-inclusive language within the company.

Be an advocate

Believing that businesses have a role in bettering their communities and the world at large, businesses that are truly committed to LGBTQ+ rights should also be involved in the greater fight for increased equality and visibility. There is no lack of incredible LGBTQ+ organisations that the private sector can promote and support such as local LGBTQ+ shelters like Uganda’s Children of the Sun Foundation, suicide prevention call centers like the Trevor Project, transgender support services like India’s Sahodari Foundation, to large international campaigns such as the UN Free and Equal Campaign.

Beyond financially supporting LGBTQ+ organisations, businesses can support this important work by allowing for paid volunteer time off, through leveraging their brand recognition and marketing resources to promote these organisations, and working alongside such organisations in calling upon legislators to protect LGBTQ+ rights.

An example of a successful partnership between business and LGBTQ+ organisations is with the outdoor apparel brand, The North Face. Through their “Exploration for All” 2021 Pride campaign The North Face is supporting Brave Trails, a non-profit outdoors summer camp for LGBTQ+ youth. Over the last six years, Brave Trails has hosted thousands of LGBTQ+ youth at their camps dedicated to raising up young LGBTQ+ leaders with a focus on imparting life skills, building community, and bridging the gap between the outdoors and the LGBTQ+ community. An 11-year-old camper named Lou, who identifies as non-binary, “struggled to find places where they could meet friends and safely be who they are.” At camp, Lou began to thrive, and their transformation was described as “astonishing.” Lou took the lessons they learned at camp back home and started a LGBTQ+ school group at their middle school, which is still going today.

In similar fashion to how The North Face partnered with Brave Trails, businesses can seek to find LGBTQ+ organisations to support that line up with their overall brand vision, mission, and culture.

(Photo: Matt Detrich, IndyStar)

Live your values: Salesforce

A prime example of facilitating a LGBTQ-friendly workplace is in the software company Saleforce; Founder and CEO, Marc Benioff, is a 2020 Business for Peace Honouree. Based in San Francisco, Salesforce has emphasized LGBTQ+ employee involvement at all levels, including in the establishment of its LGBTQ+ employee group “Outforce”. Salesforce continues to be a champion of equality and inclusion through a core belief that “diversity and inclusion create business success”.

Salesforce also has actively leveraged its resources and influence to support some of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community, notably transgender women of colour. Such practices have landed Salesforce a spot among the 2021 Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality (Human Rights Campaign).

Businesses can follow the lead of Salesforce in fostering a truly inclusive work culture by reviewing company policies, benefit packages, and promotion structures to be sure they are comprehensive and inclusive of LGBTQ+ employees. Larger companies can also follow Salesforce’s example in creating intentional spaces for LGBTQ+ employees to gather and express issues directly to leadership.

When Salesforce is seen marching in Pride parades across the world, it is clear that they are truly a business ally to the LGBTQ+ community.

Be a businessworthy ally

Failure for consumers and businesses to critically examine how business is actually being used to support the LGBTQ+ community can lead to an unfortunate “rainbow washing” and overt capitalization of Pride month.

Business for Peace is built around the idea of recognizing businessworthy leaders. Being businessworthy includes using the power of business to truly support the LGBTQ+ community through fostering a safe internal working environment as well as using the influence of business to advocate for greater LGBTQ+ inclusion societally.

Join us in going beyond sporting a rainbow logo and recognising the important role of businesses in being businessworthy LGBTQ+ allies.

Businesses can do so by critically examining their internal policies and procedures to gauge if they are truly inclusive in practice. Businesses should also actively seek to partner with any of the thousands of LGBTQ+ organisations doing important work in communities around the world. And when June comes to a close, it is crucial that this work continues throughout the other eleven months of the year.

From Business for Peace, we wish everyone a happy Pride month!

This article was originally published in Business for Peace Medium.