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During a weekly meeting for one of my clients, a question that seems to come up each summer, finally made an appearance again this year.

“Should we do something for Pride?”

This is a question that in my opinion depends on the answer to…

“Why? What were you thinking?”

You could tell that my client hadn’t completely formulated much more beyond that simple thought. Regardless, they answered honestly and with good intention.

“Well, I was thinking maybe we could have some rainbow products and some stickers… everyone loves stickers!”

That was not what I was expecting to hear, and honestly, I felt my heart sink for a moment. That was until my own thoughts were interrupted by…

“Oh, I was also thinking maybe some of, if not all of the proceeds from those products could go to a non-profit that supports the local queer community. Do you have any suggestions as to where that could be?”

Sigh of relief… I was worried for a moment that there would be potential the conversation could have innocently lead toward rainbow-washing. Which isn’t typically done maliciously. I believe that a lot of it can be avoided in the future through articles like these, as well as conversations about the meaning of Pride in today’s fight for equality. I believe that it is mainly due to the fact that, until recently, many people weren’t having these conversations.

You may be wondering what “Rainbow-Washing” is and how your business can avoid it as we enter Pride Month…

Rainbow-washing definition

Source: Urban Dictionary

Rainbow-washing is when individual people, governments, or even businesses profit off of adding rainbows to products or advertisements, especially during the month of June, calling it “allyship,” without actually doing any kind of tangible work to support the LGBTQ+ community at any other time during the year.

This is something both small businesses and large corporations have done knowingly or unknowingly over the years, with its occurrence increasing in popularity over the last decade.

Producing and promoting rainbow products during June, Pride month, has become more common over the years, with many large companies leading the trend. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I remember going to Pride events before they were highly sponsored by major companies. In fact, I remember over a decade ago an international Vodka company produced a rainbow bottle and a lot of people in the community thought it was amazing. At the time, very few companies were openly accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. So it was a statement and honestly, I thought it was a positive thing.

Now, there are a lot of companies that market rainbow or LGBTQ+ branded products to the community without actually giving back. These actions are solely to benefit from the profits that LGBTQ+ purchases generate. Pride may seem like a holiday filled only with fun to outsiders, but the truth is that Pride is a celebration of how far the LGBTQ+ community has come… but we still have miles to go. So it’s generally insensitive to solely participate with the intention to make a profit. Don’t get discouraged though, there are still many ways that your company can give back to the queer community during Pride.

Find ways to give back to the LGBTQ+ community

The issue isn’t with the rainbow products, the issue is profiting off of a holiday that exists to fight the continuing inequality the LGBTQ+ community has historically faced and is in many ways still facing today. As you implement your June marketing campaigns, if you want to support the community find a way to give back.

It could be as simple as giving a portion of the profits that come from Pride-themed products to organizations, such as The Trevor Project (a non-profit aimed at ending teen suicide among LGBTQ+ youth) or Lambda (a legal
non-profit that focuses on LGBTQ+ equality).

Donating to established organizations, such as these, ensures that your donations are making a true difference. This is one of the most beneficial ways your business can make a significant impact in the community as a whole during Pride or really any time of the year for that matter.

Get involved in your local LGBTQ+ community as a company

Finding a way to get involved is one of the easiest ways your business can show support in a meaningful way. It could be as simple as just showing up to events throughout the year, including Pride, or as involved as choosing to be a sponsor for some of them. There are so many other ways too, such as sponsoring a local LGBTQ+ sports team, showing up for Queer events in your city, and finding ways to be present within the community outside of just Pride events during the month of June.

Uplifting and supporting the voices of LGBTQ+ young adults and youth. This can be done through volunteering with schools and local organizations with inclusive messages. There are so many ways to get involved in the LGBTQ+ community in uplifting ways that don’t necessarily involve monetary donations.

Be mindful of the influence that businesses have

When a business supports the LGBTQ+ community in ways beyond profiting off of rainbow products it has real, lasting impacts on individuals. Positive ones! One of the things we are seeing businesses use to grow exponentially is cross-branding with others businesses, and even influencers. Pride month is also a time when many LGBTQ+ owned, small businesses see exponential growth due to increased exposure, networking, and sales opportunities. Choosing to collaborate with local LGBTQ+ artists, businesses, individuals, and non-profits is another way you can support the community. This is one of the ways you can make a difference in the lives of individuals, as well as the whole community .

You can still participate in Pride and your support is very much wanted, if not needed, by the community. The key is mindful, respectful participation! There are many means in which businesses of all sizes can show their support and participate in Pride in meaningful ways. A good place to start is simply thinking how your business can benefit the community.

This is a lesson that can go beyond Pride and the LGBTQ+ community as well. There are many holidays that are all too often exploited with sales and discounts solely with purpose of profiting. For some people these holidays, such as Memorial Day here in the United States, have significant meaning. It can be hurtful to see these trends appearing. Much like what we talked about here, there are so many ways to find mindful, respectful ways to participate and support your communities while consciously build lasting relationships that everyone benefits from.

If you are interested in exploring more ways that your business can get involved in communities, such as your local LGBTQ+ community in lasting, meaningful ways, please feel free to contact me.