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A common criticism around Pride is how commercialised it has become; thousands now march in the parades with companies proudly displaying their brands and flying the rainbow flag. Are we right to complain about the commercialisation of Pride? 

We would argue that the movement needs more funding and visibility, not less. Whilst commercialisation shouldn’t be pursued at the cost of LGBTQ+ inclusion, it should be welcomed. These public displays of solidarity by corporate allies demonstrate a level of inclusion that those first marching to secure our rights could only dream of. 

We need more business support for Pride and LGBTQ+ inclusion. 

Despite reaching 25,000 people this year, making it the largest in the world, UK Black Pride receives  just a fraction of the resources and corporate sponsorship of Pride in London. The funding and public  support from corporate allies could help support their work to highlight inequalities facing LGBTQI+ Black people and people of colour, particularly refugees and asylum seekers. Trans and regional  Pride’s too suffer from under investment. 

Communities are built with allies, not to exclude them but to offer them a share in our future too. Pride isn’t just for LGBTQ+ people but for straight allies, and yes, corporate allies too. UK Black Pride isn’t just for African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean heritage LGBTQ+ people, but for all those who believe in a more diverse, just and equitable society. 

This isn’t about altruism; this is survival. We need corporate allies because LGBTQ+ communities are still in crisis. 

LGBTQ+ causes worldwide receive just 0.04% of charitable funding, despite the need for support. LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience mental health problems, with Health statistics showing  half of LGBTQ+ individuals in the UK reported they have suffered from depression. LGBTQ+ people are more protected from workplace bullying in the UK, true, but we still face financial discrimination, it’s just more hidden. LGBTQ+ individuals earn on average 16 per cent less than their heterosexual and cisgender peers (almost double the UK’s gender pay gap), and are significantly less likely to be  promoted into senior leadership positions. 

In many places around the world, we’re still fighting for LGBTQ+ people’s right to even exist. We  simply don’t know how many LGBTQ+ people have been executed in the last year because of who  they were born to be, or how many hate crimes were committed, as so many go unreported because LGBTQ+ communities can’t trust the police. We used to say “silence = death”, but for millions of LGBTQ+ people globally who live in countries where they face persecution and punishment because  of their sexual and gender identities, silence is the only way to survive. 

So instead of saying corporations shouldn’t be involved in Pride, instead we should challenge them to  become better allies. How much more could we achieve if, instead of a cosmetic rainbow rebrand, these companies became year-round advocates for change? How many lives could be improved through businesses supporting LGBTQ+ employees, customers, and challenging markets to change so they can push the boundaries and help LGBTQ+ activists worldwide step closer to equal rights? 

Pride shouldn’t be less commercial, it should be more. Let’s start putting an equitable price on Pride  involvement. A rainbow logo isn’t enough – if corporate allies really want to take their place in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, then their LGBTQ+ employees and consumers must identify positively with their brand all year round. So how could a company demonstrate their allyship? 

Internally, put in place forward-thinking policies and processes to support queer, intersex and trans  employees. In the radical notion that all people are equal, let’s simply take gender out of the  equation and ensure paid parental and adoption leave, health and other benefits are accessible to all  employees, regardless of sexual identity, gender identity or marital status. Many companies are  publishing gender pay gap reports – why not examine pay gaps across all sexual, gender and racial  minorities and put in place policies and processes to address these? 

Externally, consider the guidance GiveOut has developed in partnership with companies on how businesses can be better global allies. The report, ‘Pride with Purpose’, proposes a 5-step approach  for businesses to follow which enables them to better support the global LGBTQ+ movement. 

Want to make your brand stand out? Make a splash about your support for the LGBTQI+ community  outside of Pride season; it’s crowded anyway. Invest in your internal LGBTQ+ groups and give them  the resources to donate to and build partnerships with LGBTQ+ communities, causes and  organisations to support and strengthen the global LGBTQ+ movement. As you do this, use your  power and influence as a company to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and people in the markets you  work in. In markets where LGBTQ+ people are still fighting for our basic human rights, engage with  them and ask how you can use your position to support their struggle, whether through influencing,  volunteering, or making products LGBTQ+-accessible. Many in the UK still remember fondly the first  banks that allowed openly LGBTQ+ people to get mortgages. 

When in doubt, reach out and learn from others. Macquarie, ranked number one by Stonewall, are co-hosting City 4 LGBT+ – a live crowdfunding event that will be held on 18 October, bringing together our community and corporate allies to make a difference to the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals and communities in the UK and around the world. Macquarie is not only engaged with these organisations year-round in holding this important event outside of Pride month, but they are tripling the value of all donations up to £5,000 – donating £15,000 to vital work to protect LGBTQ+ people in the UK and around the world.

Rachel Palmer, the COO, ally, advocate and LGBTQ+ Executive Sponsor at Macquarie EMEA said: “We’re proud to partner with LGBTQ+ organisations who are working to lead on the cultural changes  needed in the UK and globally. The power of corporate allyship cannot be understated, and with the  necessary support, these organisations are able to pursue meaningful actions to drive an LGBTQ+  inclusive culture.” 

If you’re wondering how to make your company more inclusive, consider coming along to the event  and speaking to Macquarie and the LGBTQ+ groups involved to learn how it can be done well. Some  corporate allies are fighting hard to show their place at Pride is well-deserved; let’s not bemoan the  commercialisation of Pride, but challenge all corporates to be better allies and earn their place there. 

This article was co-written by Aisha Shaibu and Allan McKinnon. Aisha Shaibu is a Trustee of GiveOut, Head of Community Engagement for UK Black Pride and founder of Moonlight Experiences, a company that immerses travellers into the authentic side of queer communities whilst empowering marginalised voices. Allan McKinnon is the Senior Philanthropy Expert at GiveOut and Founder of the Good Works, a philanthropy consultancy and donor-advised fund that supports individuals and companies to do good, better.