“Authenticity”: def. not false or imitation. It’s a word used frequently in corporate social impact, as companies work to establish and promote their values while proving to their key stakeholders they are purpose-driven companies. In June, as many companies commemorate Pride Month and Juneteenth, it is vital to recognize that what is said or done to observe special days or months is not nearly as important as a company’s actions all year long.
Pride Month began not as a celebration but as a protest against police brutality and in favor of equal rights. It has morphed in some ways – thanks partly to corporate and commercial influence, a fact of some concern to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. The celebration of Juneteenth has become more widespread in recent years following the racial reckoning in 2020 and, as of June 2018 is now a national holiday. Yet some corporations have been criticized for making it a commercial opportunity.
Key stakeholders – including employees, investors, consumers, and more – are savvy, and they want to see “authenticity”; they want actions and not just words. They aren’t only looking at whether your company sponsors a Pride parade or changes its logo for June. They expect a lot more.
They want to know what your internal corporate practices are. Does your company hire and promote minorities, including those in the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color? How many women or LGBTQIA+ are on your board? What are your corporate governance practices? Where are your PAC donations going? What are your HR policies and benefits packages, and are they inclusive to all?
Stakeholders also want to know what you’re doing in the community. Are you providing funding, volunteer hours, and support to inclusive nonprofits? Do you focus year-round on issues affecting populations in need of support?
This month, “celebrating” Juneteenth and making a one-time donation to an LGBTQIA+ nonprofit isn’t enough. As GLAAD says, “Being an ally is an active, ongoing, principled journey.”
What can corporations do to authentically acknowledge and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and communities of color? Check out GLAAD’s Recommendations for Corporate Allies as a starting point.