“Far too many” companies use their involvement with Pride as a “tick box exercise” and are failing to offer tangible support to the community, the boss of Manchester Pride has warned.
Mark Fletcher said when delving deeper into what “tangible help” rainbow flag-waving companies were giving LGBT+-focused charities and organisations in the run-up to Pride, there was little to show for it.
Speaking ahead of the festivities, which took place over the weekend of 23-26 August, chief executive Fletcher said: “A number of organisations will put a flag in their window and say they are supporting Pride, but we have never actually had a conversation with them. It’s misleading, really dangerous and goes to show that a lot of companies do not actually understand everything Pride stands for.
“Putting Pride T-shirts in your shop is one thing but not donating a portion of the profits to an LGBT+ initiative – there is an element of naivety there.”
Fletcher said that when meeting companies interested in supporting Manchester Pride, his team was sure to challenge the organisations on “what they are actually doing”.
“Putting a flag up is a great first step, but there is much more that needs to be done to back it up,” he added.
Discussing how travel firms could appeal more to LGBT+ travellers, Fletcher suggested they up their visibility by using LGBT+-friendly branding but also adopting the correct tone in their marketing and “understanding the minor details”.
Meanwhile, during a panel on how to avoid “rainbow washing”, Seb Thompson, press office manager and diversity lead for Manchester airport, stressed how any action “has to be authentic”.
“Rainbow washing” denotes companies using Pride or rainbow colours in their marketing and advertising to appear gay-friendly without necessarily backing that up.
Thompson said Manchester airport – which backs a number of UK Pride events and partnered with Thomas Cook Airlines on the carrier’s first Pride Flight last month – based its LGBT+ strategy around its “three Ps”.
He explained “people” stood for ensuring its own staff felt comfortable and supported at work; “passengers” for celebrating the diversity of the airport’s 29 million yearly visitors; and “perception” for gaining the support of outside suppliers such as airlines.
In agreement was Nick Brooks-Sykes, director of tourism, Marketing Manchester. “Diversity is a big part of what [our city] stands for and it’s important to use in our promotion,” he said.
Also calling for the authentic use of LGBT+ imagery was Mark Lewis, founder and chief executive of HotelRez and LGBT+ hotel programme World Rainbow Hotels.
Lewis explained how World Rainbow, which offers more than 1,200 LGBT+-friendly properties worldwide, ran a strict validation system for its suppliers.
The trio also assessed how they saw brands using LGBT+ colours in branding, with the likes of NatWest, Skittles and Hyatt praised for their approaches.