Workers and consumers say they likely prefer pro-LGBTQ businesses, research shows

American workers and consumers are more likely to prefer brands that publicly align with LGBTQ causes, according to a new analysis.

More than 51% of US employees who responded to a global survey conducted from July to August by public relations firm Edelman said they would be more likely to work for a pro-LGBTQ company, compared with 11% who said they were less probably were.

In a separate Edelman survey conducted in May, 34% of consumers said they were more likely to buy from a brand that supported LGBTQ rights, compared to 19% who said they were less likely.

LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD partnered with Edelman to analyze the survey data to gather LGBTQ-specific insights. The survey responses came from 1,000 consumers and 1,000 employees in the US

The insights come in a year of rising anti-LGBTQ government policies and violence. More than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills will be submitted to state legislatures by 2022, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the US.

In conversations with his corporate clients, Edelman found that the growing animosity toward LGBTQ people has made companies nervous about taking a clear stand with the LGBTQ community.

“We often see companies asking if they can afford to take a stand in support of LGBTQ issues, and this data shows that many companies can’t afford not to,” says Edelman Senior Vice President Lauren Gray.

In fact, more than half of Americans expect CEOs to help shape policy around LGBTQ rights, according to the analysis. It found that young shoppers in particular tend to find brands that pledge support to LGBTQ communities more “relevant” and “relatable.” A Gallup poll in February reported that one in five members of Generation Z identifies as “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or anything other than heterosexual.”

As a potential recession weighs on executives’ minds, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis acknowledged that some companies mistakenly view supporting social causes as “non-essential.”

“But putting the LGBTQ community on hold affects your bottom line,” Ellis said. “It’s just the numbers. It is too important for consumers and employees.”

There are brands that want to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, but fear they’re not getting LGBTQ inclusion “right.” A February GLAAD survey of 200 advertisers found that 61% think there would be more backlash for misrepresenting LGBTQ people than “not showing at all.”

But 64% of non-LGBTQ people and 71% of LGBTQ people said they are more likely to buy from companies that list LGBTQ people in their ads, according to 2022 GLAAD surveys.

GLAAD’s Visibility Project aims to show companies how to speak up “rightly and accurately,” Ellis said. “I think it’s important to distinguish between joining a movement and marketing to a moment.”

Instead of simply switching to rainbow packaging during Pride Month, Ellis wants companies to use their economic and political clout to resist anti-LGBTQ legislation year-round. She also wants companies to prioritize diversity and representation when hiring.

While there has been more hesitation among companies around LGBTQ support this year, some employees and customers have nevertheless managed to pressure brands to start the conversation in ways that go beyond rainbow logos.

In March, Disney was criticized by its own employees for the company’s initial silence on Florida legislation restricting primary education on sexual orientation and gender identity. Soon after, then-CEO Bob Chapek announced that the company would donate $5 million to LGBTQ support organizations and pledged to help repeal Florida’s anti-LGBTQ policy.

Since returning as CEO of Disney last month, Bob Iger has spoken out about the company’s commitment to supporting LGBTQ communities. The entertainment giant also released productions this year, including “Lightyear” and “Strange World,” which highlight same-sex romance.

“When you look at times when there is a clash between the LGBTQ community and businesses, the companies that stand up for LGBTQ people are the ones that win,” said Ellis. “I don’t think you can be a consumer-facing product in the 21st century and not do this if you’re a priority.”

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