Rainbow Washing Has To Stop—And These Major Companies Are The Worst Culprits

July 11, 2022

Pride month is over. What does that mean? Corporations can finally change their logo from rainbow colors back to their regular logo. They have solved homophobia and transphobia, everyone is equal and we are all happy. Great. Let’s move on… Or maybe not.

For one month of the year, every big company seems to be the biggest ally to the LGBTQ+ community. While there are certainly some that do the work the rest of the year as well, for many organizations it is one month of great marketing and advertising, preaching diversity and inclusion while simultaneously donating money to anti-LGBTQ+ organizations and politicians and not actually doing any tangible work that supports the community. The term used for this strategy is rainbow washing or pinkwashing. Pinkwashing is used to describe any action taken by corporations, companies, and even governments to appear inclusive and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, to improve their public image, and in many cases to distract from what they are doing the rest of the year.

Dozens of organizations all over the world make use of this. Data for Progress gives an overview of Fortune 500 companies who have donated millions to anti-LGBTQ+ organizations and politicians and most of those companies participate in pride events, change their logo in June and talk about allyship for a month before throwing all that back out the window the moment the clock strikes midnight on June 30th. A big problem is also that this rainbow washing has gotten worse and worse over the years with big corporations taking over many pride events, reducing the actual meaning of what pride is and what it stands for.

AT&T, for example, sports a rainbow logo each year and takes part in colorful parades, but they have donated more than $300,000 to anti-LGBTQ organizations and policies. Amazon talks about being an ally while giving away nearly $90,000 to homophobic causes. Don’t forget Toyota, a sponsor for LA Pride, who has donated more than $600,000 to politicians who are actively trying to take away queer rights.

Pinkwashing

Rainbow washing

Pride parades are not an outlet for companies to market their products and increase their revenue and only talking the talk while not walking the walk. Pride started as a riot and it still is a sign of resistance and a fight for equality and basic human rights, not a promotional outlet.

If you are a company that changes its logo once a year, make sure to do your part the rest of the year as well. Donate to LGBTQ+ causes, implement inclusive policies, and hire queer employees. Make sure you are intersectional and also include queer people of color and queer people with disabilities. You can’t just slap a rainbow on something and call it allyship. That is not how this works.

Also by Rebecca: Why We (Still) Need Pride

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Photo: Alexander Londoño via Unsplash; graphs courtesy of Human Rights Campaigns Foundation

Rebecca Willems
A self-described queer vegan feminist, Rebecca is also trying to live a more zero-waste and minimalist life. During her undergraduate and graduate studies she put a lot of focus on sustainability, LGBTQ+ rights and gender issues across the globe. Having lived on 5 continents in many different cultures and being an avid traveler, she loves to learn about new cultures, learn languages, and try all the amazing vegan food across the world.

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