A US gay rights organisation has released its “Buying for Equality” guide which recommends which companies gay consumers should avoid or support. The ‘name-and-shame’ strategy aims to incentivise companies to offer equal benefits to gay employees and their families.

The Human Rights Campaign released the new guide listing hundreds of popular American brands ranked on their company’s gay and lesbian inclusiveness in time for the holiday shopping season.

The publication breaks products into easily distinguishable purchasing categories. Companies and their products are compared on the basis of their GLBT workplace policies and practices.

“Knowing the tremendous buying power that exists within the GLBT and straight ally community, the ‘Buying for Equality’ guide has become an important resource for shoppers during the holiday season,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “By purchasing products from companies supporting GLBT equality, shoppers are sending a clear message that will directly impact a company’s bottom line.”

Among the companies and brands that have been given a “red” rating (“businesses/brands that have more work to do in furthering equality.”) is the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart. The company, which is also the biggest private employer in the US, received the rating because same-sex partners are not eligible to access the majority of its employee benefits, which are however open to married partners.

Other multinational companies which received the red label, because of their lack of gay, lesbian and transgender friendly employee benefits, include Toys ‘R’ Us, Kellogg and Exxon Mobil.

GLBT buying power in the US is estimated to grow to $723 Billion in 2008, according to research by Witeck-Combs Communication/ In a separate study by Witeck-Combs Communications and Harris Interactive, research also showed 78% of gay and lesbian adults and 77% of heterosexuals are likely to consider a brand that is known to provide equal workplace benefits for all of their employees, including gays and lesbians. One in four gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adults say they have switched products or service providers because they found a competing company that supports causes that benefit the GLBT community.

“From making travel arrangements, purchasing children’s toys, to shopping for the family groceries, this guide empowers equality minded shoppers ,” said Solmonese.

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