With so much talk about inequality and discrimination it can be hard to remember that there are great companies out there standing up for the rights of the LGBT community and maintaining that position in the face of serious opposition. Of course at Equalli we’ve always been all about being inclusive to all people. That’s why we create such amazing LGBT wedding rings and gay pride jewelry that is as ethical as it is dazzling. There are hundreds of other companies that have taken up the LGBT cause on behalf of their own employees as well as the general public. The Human Resources Campaign recently released their Corporate Equality Index where they rate public companies on the following criteria:
- Prohibits Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation
- Prohibits Discrimination Based on Gender Identity or Expression
- Offers Partner Health/Medical Insurance
- Has Parity Across Other “Soft” Benefits for Partners
- Offers Transgender-Inclusive Health Insurance Coverage
- Firm-wide Organizational Competency Programs
- Has Employer-Supported Employee Resource Group OR Firm-Wide Diversity Council
- Positively Engages the External LGBT Community
Companies are awarded points based on how well they meet this criteria for a possible high score of 100. Companies run the risk of having 25 of those points deducted if they or one of their leaders came out to publicly speak against the LGBT movement. For the 2015 report, the HRC evaluated hundreds of companies and found that for the first time ever, more than 350 companies achieved the top score of 100 points. The companies which achieved the highest rating run the gamut and include 3M, Kellogg Company, Hewlett-Packard, eBay, General Electric and Walt Disney.
These ten companies all feature on the HRC’s list but deserve a little extra love since they have stood firm in the face of protests, boycotts and threats by stockholders. These are the companies that aren’t in it for the headlines, they’re in it for the long haul because they believe – they KNOW – that basic human decency means extending respect to everyone.
10. Apple, Inc.
There’s no shock in outing Apple as an LGBT friendly company – they’ve been at the forefront of equality for years. Just recently, Apple released a whole new emoji update which included a diverse group of same-sex families. But their commitment to equality runs well beyond happy emoji families. When Prop 8 was rearing its ugly head in California, Apple stumped up $100,000 to help defeat the bill, which aimed to strip away the rights of same-sex couples. In 2010, the company stepped in to remove an app, The Manhattan Declaration, which asked users to sign a declaration against same-sex relationships and which advocated a more strict adherence to Biblical law (though there was not mention of shunning bacon). Apple removed the app from their store after they were delivered with a petition through Change.org with more than 7,000 signatures.
Way back in the 1980s, a group of LGBT employees at Microsoft got together and started a private email list they dubbed GLEAM (Gay and Lesbian Employees at Microsoft). By the 1990s, GLEAM had evolved into an influential group within the company and successfully lobbied to have benefits extended to domestic partners of LGBT employees in 1993. Since then, Microsoft has become a leader in diversity, inclusion and protection with anti-discrimination policies as well as remaining active in the public fight for LGBT rights. The company has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to help support marriage equality and remains one of the HRC’s highest ranking companies in terms of workplace equality.
The next time you’re having a hard time justifying that $5 coffee go ahead and splurge knowing that you’re forking over cash to a company with a vested interest in LGBT rights. Starbuck’s has been offering same-sex benefits for years and, in 2013, launched an ad campaign featuring people from RuPaul’s Drag Race and publicly came out in support of marriage equality. That same year, an investor complain the support of marriage equality was chipping away at profits and suggested CEO Howard Schultz should pay more attention to the bottom line and stockholder interests. Shultz responded, “If you feel respectfully that you can get a higher return [than] the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You could sell your shares at Starbucks and buy shares in other companies.”
7. Home Depot
The home improvement superstore has no qualms about their support for the LGBT community and is a regular fixture on the American Family Association’s (AFA) boycott list. The company offers same-sex benefits and has come out publicly in support of their own LGBT employees as well as the community at large. Home Depot still hasn’t quite reach 100 points with the HRC yet as they don’t offer transgender inclusive health-benefits but when the AFA announced a renewal of their boycott at a shareholder’s meeting in 212, Home Depot’s Chairman responded by saying “We are, and will remain, committed to a culture that fosters an inclusive environment for our associates, our customers and communities in which we exist.”
Built Ford Tough is more than a tagline – it’s how the company stands in the face of adversity. As one of the country’s oldest surviving companies, Ford has a long history in terms of how it relates and interacts with the public. The company earned the scorn of the infamous AFA back in 2005 when the group declared Ford was “the company which has done the most to affirm and promote the homosexual lifestyle.” Ford has consistently scored 100 points in the HRC index and has sponsored Pride events, donated thousands to GLAAD and the history of the company boasts dozens of milestones in the advancement of equality and diversity.
5. JC Penney
When JC Penney teamed up with Ellen DeGeneres they wound up being protested by the AFA affiliate group One Million Moms. Penney’s response? They released ads for both Mother’s and Father’s Day which featured same sex couples. While the company has had its share of challenges learning to survive in a new economy, their commitment to LGBT equality has made them an unlikely underdog champion for many.
IBM has developed a reputation as an LGBT friendly business in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the UK, the LGBT advocacy group Stonewall has rated the company the most LGBT friendly in the country and the HRC stateside agrees. IBM’s commitment to equality, diversity and opportunity has a wide scope and the company proudly boasts their milestones on the equality in the workforce page of their official website.
Richard Branson isn’t shy about making headlines or going to extremes to meet his own goals. The business magnate has gone on record about his goal to offer commercial space flights and sent shockwaves through the business world when he explained his company’s policy on unlimited vacation for employees. Branson also understands the economic advantage of embracing diversity. In a column written for Entrepreneur.com, Branson said “Over more than 40 years of building our businesses at the Virgin Group, my colleagues and I have seen time and time again that employing people from different backgrounds and who have various skills, viewpoints and personalities will help you to spot opportunities, anticipate problems and come up with original solutions before your competitors do. Regardless of the position you hold or the industry you work in, the key is to lead by example: Embrace diversity, starting with the choices you make for your first hires. An entrepreneur who hires a lot of people who are just like her and have had the same experiences will find that she’s leading a team that is less creative and helpful to customers, and ultimately produces lower profits.”
2. Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble is another iconic American company, makers of mainstays like Tide, Gain, Pampers and Pantene to name a few. As an iconic company, they’re often associated with so-called traditional values and so they are often mistakenly labeled as a conservative organization. The fact of the matter is P&G definitely supports family values – they simply don’t use a narrow definition of the word family. The company’s Chief Legal Officer, Deborah P. Majoras, summed up their view of the issue easily, “We have always supported our employees and fostered a culture of inclusion and respect — this includes the right to marry whomever they choose and to have that union legally recognized.”
1. The Girl Scouts
Strictly speaking, the Girl Scouts isn’t a company, but they’ve earned this top space because of their unflinching support for equality and because they’ve done it without much media attention. When the Boy Scouts of America came under attack in 2012 for kicking out a gay scout leader, most people painted both the Boy and Girl Scouts with the same brush. But the Girl Scouts have a long history of inclusion and while the Boy Scouts were debating whether or not to do away with their longtime ban on “open or avowed homosexuals”, the Girl Scouts were welcoming a transgender child into a local troop. This, along with the fact that the Girl Scouts are a longtime supporter of Planned Parenthood and – according to right wing conservatives – radical feminists, new age religions and lesbians. The Girl Scouts have held their ground in the face of every protest over their commitment to equality, making them a surefire hit to include in any gay wedding reception.