Implications for Brands, Countries and Global Citizenship
As this weekend PRIDE events worldwide commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969, and we build momentum towards the anniversary in 2019 (50 years) which FutureBrand has created the brand marque for under the auspices of NYC Pride, it is worth also pausing to recognise that the future requires more work and effort to achieve an open and equal world community. Working with HRC (The Human Rights Campaign), we believe it is imperative that social issues such as LGBTQ rights are a vital element for creating a better future for all. HRC’s recent publication, Equality Rising is a wonderful summary of progress to date in 2016, and yet reflects on the challenges that remain.
In the wake of the recent Orlando shooting and raised consciousness of LGBTQ rights, the response by firms to recognise this act of terror and murder has been laudable around the world. Support for ‘Orlando Strong’ and #LoveconquersHate has been amplified. Within hours of the shooting at the PULSE club and as the enormity of the tragedy unfolded, brands began to take action. JP Morgan donated $1M to the OneOrlando Fund set up by the city of Orlando. Wells Fargo Bank donated $300K; Publix $250K, Olive Garden and AT&T $200K and Disney and Jet Blue offered free accommodation and flights to the families of victims. This is in addition to many other brands and contributions that have been made as a result of the increased awareness and consciousness of LGBTQ community issues. Around the world, Corporate brands are implementing programmes to push a ‘Future is Equal’ agenda, and to recognise that to be on ‘the right side of history’ is not only good for business, but the right thing to do in the eyes of employees, shareholders and communities in which these firms do business.
Equality Rising highlights the rising visibility of the LGBTQ community, unprecedented legal and political victories and evolving societal and institutional norms that benefit LGBTQ people. It also explores the ferocious backlash, as opponents respond to this swift and substantial progress on LGBTQ rights. The publication concludes with an emphasis that momentum towards equality is building across the world as courageous and resilient advocates fearlessly face challenges.
Equality Rising reminds us that there is still a lot of work to do. At least 75 countries criminalize same-sex relationships and same-sex conduct may be punishable by death in up to 10 countries. HRC Global stands in solidarity with advocates everywhere against homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and all forms of hate facing the LGBTQ community across the globe.
What does this mean for Corporate Brands? What does it mean for leaders and citizens of countries? What does this mean for global citizenship?
Companies today are influential arbiters of power both as employers and citizens. Companies are catalysts of economic development and prosperity, as well as represent branded goods and services that are valued everyday by consumers worldwide. The power of firms to influence debate and social outcomes is unquestioned. Their influence as employers, as well as tax paying sources of income mean that a corporate brand can exert pressure on the political and economic agenda of communities, regions and nations. As consumers demand to know more about companies and their views on issues related to citizen welfare, and equality – the ranking of firms that are ‘pro-LGBTQ’ as indexed by HRC becomes even more important. Social philanthropy and citizenship are Important drivers of change, and when a firm supports an issue such as LGBTQ rights it is an important endorsement and offers legitimacy to legal and employment law enforcement. In the US, this has been at the center of the debates on Anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination attempts in state legislatures. Companies such as Starbucks, Apple, GAP and American Airlines to name a few have been ardent supporters for change and for equality. This has a very positive reputation halo for these firms and serves as a model for corporate social responsibility and citizenship. The HRC index on equality in the workplace can be seen here in full. www.hrc.org/cei.
Country Brands are also impacted by HRC’s study, and this is increasingly an important issue for both attracting investment as well as Tourism revenues. The effect of human rights abuses and a political agenda of hate can be seen in the effect of perceptions or associations of how consumers see nations and their degree of tolerance and/or open and free society. Our FutureBrand Country Brand Index (insert link) identifies how the variable of tolerance and being ‘good for business’ are related, and how the experience of wanting to visit, live or work in a Country is affected by how ‘equal’ and welcoming the country is perceived as being. In Africa and the Middle East, when combined with traditional tribal culture and faith based governance, the more open, liberal and ‘western’ values of tolerance, equality and respect are not enshrined in law for either women or the LGBTQ communities.
As the global community of consumers and citizens connect more freely and openly, and as cross-border ideas, workforces and education begins to create collaborative networks the implications of Global Citizenship begin to hit home. In an era of populist rhetoric and xenophobia, the agenda for acceptance and tolerance is limited to the more developed economies and countries of the world. Many of these countries and their corporations are pioneering the advances both for their workers, their communities and via their governments the markets in which they operate. Global Brands and governments are working in concert to raise the consciousness of LGBTQ issues and causes related to equality, freedom and human rights. This is vital for a more open, positive and beneficial future for all people.
At FutureBrand, and in our firm IPG (Interpublic Group) we are strong advocates of equality, and of respect for individuals and of communities. Working with brands and organizations that can have a more positive future is vital to advance global prosperity, safety, security and social welfare, and FutureBrand is future positive.
Here is the most recent global equality report, Equality Rising. In addition, here are the links to a few videos released in May:
Chris has worked over the past 25 years across all sectors in the area of Brand Strategy and Marketing for Corporate, Consumer and NGO Brands around the world.
A passionate innovator, Chris believes in the power of creativity to define the future through branding. In particular, Chris is a lead practitioner in Corporate Vision and Purpose strategy.