Corporate America Adopts Cautious Approach to Pride Month Amid Election Year

Many businesses have been more diplomatic in their public endorsement of LGBTQ+ causes as Pride Month draws to a close. Merchandise with rainbow themes, affirming ads, and social media posts honoring LGBTQ+ pride tend to flood the market in June. Just like Target and Bud Light last year, some companies are stepping back on their diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives as the presidential election draws near. This is to prevent getting caught up in cultural conflicts or experiencing backlash from conservative customers.

Tractor Supply, a store that specializes in rural goods like lawn supplies and animal feed, made headlines late Thursday when it announced it would cut all funding for diversity and environmental causes, including Pride festival sponsorships.

Although Tractor Supply’s decision is noteworthy, it is representative of a larger trend wherein companies are being cautious with their promises to promote inclusion. In June, it was difficult to keep track of how many businesses donated to LGBTQ+ causes, posted supportive messages, or sold rainbow-themed merchandise compared to previous years. By June 21st, 45% of Fortune 100 companies had made a social media post specifically about Pride, down from 51% in June of last year, according to reputational research firm Gravity Research in Washington, D.C.

Luke Hartig, president of Gravity Research, pointed out that candidates’ willingness to publicly criticize companies and the uncertainty surrounding the next presidential election are factors in this cautious stance. “There’s a little bit of like, ‘keep our heads down while we go through this election,'” said Hartig.

Among the Fortune 500 companies that Tim Bennett has worked with are Procter & Gamble. Tribury Productions is a marketing agency that focuses on reaching LGBTQ+ Americans. He found that rather than concentrating on one month, some clients are taking a “wait-and-see” approach or spreading their marketing efforts out throughout the year to reach LGBTQ+ consumers. “June this year has not been like the last five or six,” Bennett complained.

Charity and LGBTQ+ initiatives may not suffer as a result of this change. Sarah Kate Ellis, chief executive officer of the nonprofit advocacy organization GLAAD, made the observation that an increasing number of companies are actively participating in activism and philanthropy all year round. In addition, she brought up a survey by Gravity Research that showed that 78 percent of businesses had no plans to alter their Pride strategy this year, while 13 percent were uncertain and 9 percent intended to make changes. The survey included 45 corporate executives and Fortune 500 leaders across various industries.

“The visibility of companies putting flags out and having product to celebrate our Pride and to mark a month that’s really significant and important for our community is really important, and I don’t want to ever devalue that,” said Ellis. “I do think, though, those companies must look inside and make sure that they have the policies and the HR practices that match their outward marketing.”

The LGBTQ+ community continues to receive financial backing from major corporations. Donations and corporate support have remained steady this Pride month, according to a GLAAD spokesperson. However, the exact total is still unavailable.

The Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center, which commemorates the New York City bar that sparked the LGBTQ+ rights movement, formally opened its doors on Friday. A number of prominent businesses have shown their support for the event, including Booking.com, Google, Amazon, and JPMorgan Chase. Along with other dignitaries, President Joe Biden spoke at the dedication ceremony for the monument.

Corporate America Adopts Cautious Approach to Pride Month Amid Election Year

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