How can retailers be proud of their rainbow-washing or pride?

June is all about rainbows and it is divisive as to which retailers should sell Pride-themed products.

Some brands have been accused of profiteering off LGBTQ+-products, “jumping on to the rainbow capitalism bandwagon”, which highlights more than ever that organizations must be genuine and true in their support and campaigns.

After creating a concept set in his office, Matthew Ashton, LEGO’s Vice President of Design, created the “Everyone Is Awesome!” set.

Ashton stated that “Inclusivity…celebrates everybody, regardless of how they identify or whom they love.” The set retails at PS30.99 and can only be purchased in two transactions.

Apple has unveiled a new version its Apple Watch with the colors of the rainbow flag. This is to make it clear that the proceeds of the product will go to support programs like The Trevor Project and the ILGA.

The company committed to support Encircle, Equality North Carolina and Equality Texas, Gender Spectrum Campaign, PFLAG National and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Despite seemingly good intentions, Marks & Spencer launched the limited-edition “Pride LGBT sandwich” in 2019. The move was met with a lot of criticism on social networks. Marks & Spencer had made pledges to charity such as the Albert Kennedy Trust. They said that the campaign was supported by brands like Marks & Spencer. However, some people focused on the product trivializing a very important campaign.

Talking to Ed Watson, communications specialist and founder of WeArePrew, Watson discussed how companies can handle Pride month in a professional and supportive manner. Watson emphasized that it is the long-term support that organisations provide to LGBTQ+- communities that is important, not just ‘flag waving for a day’.

“As a gay man who came out in the 1990’s, I must admit that I am in two minds about this show. It’s incredible that so many organizations are showing their pride in pride, and it’s wonderful that there’s so much visibility. But, I find it a bit cynical to question whether people are simply looking for the “potofgold; at the end the rainbow.” ”

Could it be that, rather than an actual shift in corporate ethics, we are still seeing corporate “rainbow-washing”? Are companies working to educate and support their employees on a 365-day basis?

Watson, who previously managed communications for brands such as ASDA and N Brown Group, said that “for many I would guess this doesn’t occur”. “We have made more progress than we did in the 1990’s, when I was first introduced against the backdrop of section 28. Is there more to be done? Absolutely! One example is the rise in hate crime against the LGBTQI population. Pride shouldn’t be a marketing buzzword, but an integral part of every organization’s day.

Alexandra Ocasio Cortex succinctly tweeted: “Just because a company put on a rainbow doesn’t mean that they support the LGBTQ+ communities.” This is a reminder to brands that they must look at their true colors before painting them in their stores, communications, and sandwich packets.

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