lgbtq pair

Thinking Beyond Pride Month: What’s at Stake for Companies Who Do Not Consider LGBTQ+ Stakeholders

March 27, 2024

Last year, the U.S. media found themselves in a frenzy over what seemed to be an outpouring of backlash towards the LGBTQ+ community and corporate initiatives around Pride Month. Multiple brands became regular news cycle subjects, and their missteps left many in the corporate space wondering whether there was still room to support LGBTQ+ causes without risking major public scrutiny.

But the numbers tell a different story that rises above the volatility of the media: more Gen Z adults in the United States are identifying as LGBTQ+ than other generations, and despite the media backlash last year, consumers still have an expectation that companies will stand up for what’s right. The media frenzy shouldn’t cloud the facts—support for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States is at an all-time high, including the point that seven in ten Americans support marriage equality.

Transgender rights, however, have been uniquely in the line of fire and transphobia is becoming mainstreamed. There are 429 active anti-trans bills in the United States, with 15 already passed this year.

Even in this mire, it’s still prudent and necessary for organizations to be thinking about their strategy with the LGBTQ+ community. With a crystallized perspective, backed by meaningful action, companies can build credibility with the LGBTQ+ community and maintain a consistent, strategic position on LGBTQ+ equity, especially during times of sociocultural oscillations. It may be tempting to fade into the background to avoid controversy, but what’s at risk for those that choose not to take a stance?

  1. Corporate Reputation. When walking back on commitments related to diversity, equity and inclusion or those to a specific community, companies must remember that their corporate reputation amongst external stakeholders remains at risk. It may be tempting for companies to scale back on their commitments to DEI and to LGBTQ+ communities in the wake of pointed backlash to stop the noise, but research shows that companies who invest in DEI infrastructure, and stand by under-resourced communities during turbulent times, have a competitive advantage and are likely to viewed in a positive light by prospective employees, clients and consumers. Companies who make commitments, and scale back substantively, risk losing this reputational gain.
  2. Questioned Credibility. Some companies were initially met with a sense of understanding when they pulled back LGBTQ+ merchandise from their outlets and stores to prioritize employee safety. However, as quick as this occurred, queer activists scolded the decisions of major brands to placate “hate groups” and de-center LGBTQ+ communities during a very pivotal time. This called into question many organizations authenticity, accountability, and credibility with their LGBTQ+ stakeholders. Companies and employers may want to evaluate this scenario for a comprehensive gut check.
  3. Potential Loss of Profitability. Outside of studies showcasing a seemingly positive correlation between a company’s DEI output and financial performance, companies also remain at risk for losing out, or the ability to tap into, the growing $3.9 trillion in purchasing power that the global LGBTQ+ community yields.

These are concerning risks. To help current and prospective clients mitigate these, APCO launched its LGBTQ+ Equity Offering to support them on their unique journeys in communicating with and for their LGBTQ+ stakeholders. APCO’s approach is rooted in its commitment to equity and justice, and helping clients take a proactive approach to handling a wide range of issues pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community, rather than the reactive one that many companies have chosen. For more information related to the LGBTQ+ Equity Offering and how APCO is seeking to position clients and employers to be steadfast during turbulent times, please reach out to Kika Chatterjee (kchatterjee@apcoworldwide.com) and Tyler Blackburn (tblackburn@apcoworldwide.com) for more information.

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