Authentic change or Rainbow Capitalism?

June 28, 2021

Nothing quite says summer like our most recognisable brands smothering themselves in rainbows, in their annual attempt at showing allyship. From Skittles turning its sweets grey to call attention to “the only rainbow that matters”, to LEGO’s new “Everyone Is Awesome” multicoloured set, all big names are colourfully promoting some form of support for the LGBTQ+ community.

It should be noted, the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ visibility has been long and hard, and the increase in public acceptance and recognition of these issues has been reinforced by the corporate contribution to this annual movement. However, for several years this trend has been critiqued as disingenuous, exploitative, Rainbow Capitalism and the commodification of LGBTQ+ culture. In its current state, it is hard to see how these acts of rebranding pay much tribute to a) the rights and experience of LGBTQ+ people, or b) the Stonewall Riots against police violence in 1969, which led to the first Gay Pride protest.

Most notably this year, brands have been called out for claiming to support the LGBTQ+ community, even when the companies have a history of donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to legislators who sponsor anti-trans legislation. AT&T, for example, supports the Trevor Project, a queer suicide prevention initiative, while simultaneously donating to politicians who describe gay marriage as a “breakdown of the family” and actively block the Equality Act.

With this said, there are some companies that are genuinely trying to make a meaningful change alongside their campaigns. For example, Apple launched a new rainbow version of its watch, with proceeds going to change-making programmes supported by the ILGA, The Trevor Project and youth charity, GLSEN. Some companies are even going beyond cash. For example, Kellogg’s is donating to GLAAD, an NGO focusing on media discrimination, as well as encouraging people to write their pronouns on their cereal boxes, with the aim of educating the public and sending a supportive message to trans youth. Jägermeister has also been recognised as tangibly supporting communities with campaigns such as “Save the Night”, which celebrates and preserves lesbian bars.

Finally, there are brands that are using their global influence to support the cause. The Body Shop is supporting pro-LGBTQ+ legislation, by encouraging its consumers to sign a petition supporting the Equality Act and promising to donate $1 per signature to the Equality Federation, an advocacy accelerator to support LGBTQ+ organisations. Additionally, Unilever is broadening its 2016 commitment to Unstereotype with its latest initiative, which seeks to make real, structural changes to the entire marketing process, and provoke and integrate more diverse and inclusive thinking across all its brands.

Rich Ferraro, chief communications officer at GLAAD, recently said, “If a brand doesn’t have a 365-day-a-year plan for LGBTQ inclusion, they really need to prioritise that over a one-off Pride campaign.” So the question is, which companies are promoting their genuine alignment to LGBTQ+ activism, and which are simply changing with the seasons?

Author: Abi Frankfort 

If you would like to donate to a charity supporting the LGBTQ+ community, click here.