“Rainbow-Washing” and How Your Business Can Avoid Doing It

“Rainbow-Washing” and How Your Business Can Avoid Doing It

Pride month kicked off last Tuesday and with it came a wave of colour across the web and social media. Over the years it’s gotten more and more common for brands to take part, creating rainbow versions of their logos, bringing out Pride-themed product lines, and decorating storefronts with bright colours and bold statements.

But as with anything, there’s a right way and a wrong way for businesses to approach Pride month. The right way means bringing attention to LGBTQ+ issues and establishing your workplace as a safe space. The wrong way means rainbow-washing, which can do more harm than good for your business and the community.

Like pinkwashing and greenwashing before it, rainbow-washing is a marketing tactic where brands commodify the support of LGBTQ+ communities during the month of June without any affirmative action to back up their promoted stance. In other words, rainbow-washing is when businesses include Pride themes in their marketing while simultaneously failing to support LGBTQ+ communities in ways that actually make a difference. It’s performative activism for commercial gain.

Now, this doesn’t mean simply uploading a rainbow version of your logo to Twitter is wrong—we did this, too—it just needs to be followed by something more impactful.

So, what can you do to avoid rainbow-washing?

Modern-day Pride is a celebration filled with rainbows and statements of love. However, the reasons for these parties and parades may have gotten lost in translation over the years.

Before the Pride parade of today, there was the Stonewall Uprising or Stonewall Riots—a series of riots in the late 1960s led by Marsha P. Johnson and other trans women of colour as a response to police brutality against the LGBTQ+ community.

We celebrate Pride not only to commemorate those who fought for the rights that the LGBTQ+ community has today but also to bring awareness to the work that still needs to be done. For example:

For those looking to avoid rainbow-washing, step one should be an ongoing process of education and personal reflection that works towards making you and your business more understanding, inclusive, and accepting. With a solid foundation of knowledge, you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

The impact can start right at home. One of the best ways to support Pride during June and throughout the year is by making sure your business stands proud while internally backing the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. Here are ways you can get started:

Apart from these ideas, businesses can start small by encouraging team members to add their pronouns to their name tags, email signatures, or virtual platforms. These are quick actions that help to minimize the chances of misgendering while making those with different gender identities feel more comfortable and supported.

Take a look at the diversity of your team. Now, take a look at those in leadership and decision-making positions. Notice anything?

Are you prioritizing psychological safety to ensure everyone is comfortable speaking up? If not, find ways to uplift those voices and find ways to utilize their strengths.

If you’ve checked off all the internal boxes it’s time to take action externally. This is when you can start flying flags and updating logos without seeming or feeling opportunistic. In fact, here are some ways you can take it further:

Were you considering a special Pride line of products? Take it a step further and donate some of the proceeds to LGBTQ+ organizations, or partner with LGBTQ+-owned businesses in your industry to collaborate.

Lastly, encourage your team to enjoy LGBTQ+ themed books, movies, tv shows, or music. From there, consider sharing everyone’s choices with your brand’s community and recommend the team’s top picks.

As all marketers know, you need to consider the “why”. It’s the same with supporting Pride.

At Stryve, we’re innovative—leaders, not followers. We support Pride because we recognize its role in making the world a better place—not its role in a marketing strategy. Not unlike you, we have more work to do, but with every blog and policy, we take a step in the right direction. While we’ve uploaded our Pride-themed logo for the month, the work behind the scenes will continue beyond June. That’s the difference between showing support and rainbow-washing.