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Smiling With Pride

How one brand is celebrating diversity and strengthening the LGBTQ community…
 
By Jumol Royes
 
We’ve all seen it happen: Pride season begins, and brands big and small roll out the rainbow-coloured carpet for a month, a week or maybe a weekend. But after the festivities are over and the rainbow flags disappear from view, we’re left to wonder if these brands are truly committed to celebrating diversity and strengthening the community, or if the real objective is simply to harness the spending power of LGBTQ consumers. While it’s relatively easy for brands to sponsor annual Pride events, it’s a bigger challenge for them to show ongoing support for the community throughout the rest of the year.
 
It raises the question: Do brands have the right to market to the LGBTQ community if they’re not giving back and having a real impact?
 
Crest is an example of a brand that’s taking an ethical approach to LGBTQ marketing and living its values by showing support for employees and engaging with Pride from the inside out. The brand’s parent company, P&G Canada, established the GABLE (Gay, Ally, Bisexual and Lesbian Employees) affinity group (https://www.pgcareers.com/gable) in 1996 with the goal of “creating an inclusive environment where LGBT employees feel valued, accepted and able to perform at their peak.” Today, that commitment to celebrating diversity is very much alive and well.
 
“As an out and proud gay male, I have consistently been able to be [my] absolute full self at work without fear of judgment, disapproval or barriers to my career progressing,” says Justin Reekie (@justinreekie), a P&G Canada employee who is also part of the GABLE network. “I’m lucky to work in such a safe and inclusive environment that continues to push boundaries and drive change.”

 
Working for a company that takes proactive steps to ensure its employees feel supported and comfortable being out at work is a top consideration for many in the LGBTQ community, like Ervin Cheah, a P&G Canada employee:
 
“I had the privilege of being sponsored by P&G to represent Canada at a global LGBT conference and walking in the Toronto Pride parade. I only came out a year before joining P&G, so [having that support] was a big deal for me and a big part of my coming out experience,” says Cheah.
 
It should come as no surprise that a brand that stands shoulder to shoulder with LGBTQ colleagues is also working on a grassroots level to strengthen the community. In 2018, thanks in large part to an introduction facilitated by United Way Greater Toronto, Crest partnered with The 519 to raise funds for two of The 519’s most under-funded programs: the Among Friends LGBTQ Refugee Support Group and the Older LGBTQ2S Drop-In Program. For every #CrestSmileWithPride hashtag used, the brand donated $1 to The 519. A group of influencers helped spread the message about the campaign far and wide, and Crest was able to reach its goal of raising $25,000 before the campaign came to a close.
 
“LGBTQ refugees face significant barriers throughout their resettlement process and the need for LGBTQ-focused settlement services remains high, whereas funding for LGBTQ refugee claimants remains low. With support from donors like Crest and other organizations and individuals, we are able to expand the program each year to serve more people,” says Stacy Kelly, director of philanthropy at The 519. “Last year [2017-18], we were able to offer support to 13 per cent more refugee claimants on a one-on-one basis.”
 
The Older LGBTQ2S Drop-In, which offers “space for the seniors group to meet every week, socialize and participate in various activities,” is another under-funded program that has been expanding over the years, says Kelly. Last year, The 519 was able to increase the number of staff members dedicated to the program because of partnerships like the one with Crest. It’s further evidence that there are some great brands out there that are taking action, creating change and being effective allies by standing behind and beside the LGBTQ community.
 
The best way to celebrate diversity is to enable it, and that’s something worth smiling with pride about 365 days a year.
 

 
JUMOL ROYES is a Toronto-based writer, content creator and communications strategist with a keen interest in personal development and transformation. Follow him on Twitter at @Jumol.
 

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