For the last few years companies across the UK have cashed-in on the Pink Pound, estimated to be at over £6 billion per year in the UK. From deodorants to sandwiches, apparel to alcohol, there has been no limit to the type of items businesses have been prepared to slap a rainbow flag on in order to promote their gay-friendly appearance.
From rainbows painted onto the side of trains, to LGBT items of clothing being ripped of the shelves within days of them being launched, the last couple of years has seen businesses across the country step-up their game in attempting to reach out to consumers, and attempt to promote their gay-friendly products. To some people, this has been a fantastic act of kindness from big organisations, to me, this pinkwashing of products has allowed huge players in the UK, who already make millions of pounds each year, to make more, while not practicing what they’re trying to preach.
Primark, for example, last year launched their Pride clothing range in partnership with the LGBT charity Stonewall, with items being made in Turkey. They faced widespread criticism for producing the items in a country which has a poor recent record on defending LGBT rights, with any critics pointing out that it was an unethical decision to ask workers to produce items of clothing that included messages illegal for them to voice in their own country.
The Pride clothing range from Primark, was a great opportunity to allow customers to visibly show their Pride, or was it? In my opinion, it was the first big Pink Pound PR campaign, that failed massively because they didn’t take the time to research a community they were trying to tap into.
More recently, M&S surprised us with the launch of their new LG-BLT, providing that there any item can be made inclusive. The release of the sandwich came with the promise that the British brand will be donating money to two causes ahead of Pride, chosen by its LGBTQ+ employees: £10,000 to Akt, a LGBTQ youth homelessness charity and €1000 to BeLongG, an Irish youth service. Many people online labelled the release as something refreshing.
These types of product launches have always annoyed me, since they started to boom. Across the country, there are small-local projects, and charities, being ran by volunteers, who are overstretched, under-resourced and, most importantly, under-funded. Yet, for some reason, these incredible organisations are being totally erased in these types of activities. It’s all about big companies, immediately partnering with a big charity, a charity that most likely makes millions of pounds each year, and can easily continue their work without this huge kind of public partnership. That is until now.
Last week, to support International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), the company launched a limited edition, rainbow version of its iconic blue bag. More importantly, than the launch of another rainbow product, the sale of these bags will allow local stores to contribute and participate in local Pride events and other LGBTQ initiatives.
This is the first launch of a product, that will actually make a difference to local people, in some of the hardest to reach communities, thanks to the opportunity provided to local, and regional, LGBTQ organisations to make links and tap-into the funds being generated from the sale of the products. Finally, this is pinkwashing that is beneficial, and is commendable.