UK supermarkets have adorned their rainbow logos for the month, with Pride themed products, charity donations, and Pride celebrations lined up.
While some retailers have expressed charitable commitments to the wider LGBTQ+ community and their colleagues, others have hidden behind rainbow branding.
Grocery Gazette outlines what key retailers are doing or not doing for Pride month this year, with a deeper look into how corporate rainbow-washing attempts to erase complicity in harmful practises.
Big 4 grocer Sainsbury’s has continued to donate the charity Akt which support home homeless LGBTQ+ young people.
The UK based charity focuses on those aged 16-25 to provide safe transitions into new homes, as well as employment, education or training in welcoming environments that celebrate their identities.
Additionally the supermarket giant has chose to support Sparkle, a national transgender charity which hosts the Sparkle Weekend – the largest free-to-attend celebration of gender diversity in the world held in July.
In collaboration with their suppliers J&J, Unilever, Durex and Colgate – Sainsbury’s also announced it will be making a further donation to both charities.
READ MORE: Tesco donates almost £100,000 to mark Pride
Like its rival, Tesco has also announced what it is doing to support the LGBTQ+ community, as a result it will donate almost £100,000 to three LGBTQ+ charities.
The supermarket will be donating £33,000 to Switchboard, a helpline service offering support and information to the LGBTQ+ community and beyond, Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity and Fighting with Pride, a supporter of health and wellbeing of LGBT+ veterans, service personnel and their families.
“Leading the LGBTQ+ at Tesco network and the amazing team behind it is a real privilege for me, and I’m thrilled that Tesco is supporting Pride and these wonderful charities this year,” LGBTQ+ at Tesco chair Adam Jarvis said.
“I can’t wait to go to the parades and celebrate a really important part of who I am with my colleagues, while knowing that Tesco is making a difference to our LGBTQ+ communities.
“Love is love and we want everyone to be welcome at Tesco, to be able to thrive, and feel like we all belong.”
Similar to Sainsbury’s, Morrisons has donated £15,000 to Akt to also support LGBTQ+ people facing homelessness or hostile environments.
“On the behalf of everyone at akt, we want to thank Morrisons for their generous and continued support again this year,” akt deputy CEO Carrie Reineres said.
“Your Pride activation this summer will ensure that akt continues to be able to assist the increasing number of young LGBTQ+ people across the UK who face homelessness and abuse for simply being who they are. Their support allows akt to provide safe accommodation and support when and where it is needed most all across the UK.”
The Morrisons Foundation has also donated a further £3,450 to Cumbria LGBTQ+ Pride charity to provide weekly craft activities for a while year to families with LGBTQ+ members.
However, the grocer has also made commitments all year round to review policies and ways of working to ensure they “work hard for their LGBTQ+ colleagues” and have also stated they would “develop a plan to create even more allies”.
Asda has continued it partnership with Diversity Role Models with a £100,000 donation to “help young people embrace and celebrate diversity.”
The charity develops safe spaces and student workshops where young people can build young people’s empathy so they can understand the (often unintended) impact of their language and actions.
The grocer first partnered with Diversity Role Models in 2019 with a donation of £12,500 which managed to deliver 100 workshops, reaching 1,500 students across the UK.
Beyond the Rainbow
It’s evident that some retailers have gone beyond virtue-signalling logos splashed in the pride flag with continued charitable engagements and all-year support of LGBTQ+ colleagues – whereas others have not. While rainbow-washing is not a new phenomenon, its presence remains firm across PR departments.
Companies continue coat their websites in rainbows as if the symbol erases complicity in practises that are harmful to the LGBTQ+ community.
In 2020, Amazon donated over $450,000 to politicians who voted against the Equality Act – a piece of US legislation designed to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination. However, the company which runs Amazon Fresh supermarkets in the UK – has also continued to contradictorily profit from Pride themed products.
Unfortunately, the UK is not exempt from supporting anti-LGBTQ+ politics. CEO and co-founder of online grocer Ocado Tim Steiner, donated to Boris Johnson’s electoral campaign in 2019. Similarly, Asda owners the Issa brothers and founder and executive chairman of Iceland Malcolm Walker also donated to the Conservative Party.
This means supporting a party with leaked audio hoping to reverse a ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people; this would also mean supporting a trans-exclusive prime minister that claimed “biology” distinguishes what constitutes a “man” or “woman”.
Despite NHS England describing conversion therapy as “unethical and potentially harmful”, and Trans Media Watch chair Jane Fae describing it as “mistreatment, abuse and in some cases torture” – the government announced in April this year that the ban would only pertain to gay and bisexual people – but not transgender people.
While companies like Amazon and Ocado paint their vans in rainbow fruit for Pride – we must also question their motives, beliefs and how they choose to wield their financial agency.
By supporting politicians that actively dismiss the T in the LGBTQ+, companies wrongfully claim allyship and hide behind colourful symbols of inclusivity to distract from their political involvements.