Has business reached ‘peak Pride’?

People wave flags at a Pride march.

Business support for LGBTQ+ equality is strengthening. Image: Unsplash/Christian Lue

Dominic Arnall
Chief Executive Officer, Open For Business
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  • During Pride Season, leading brands have been targeted by anti-LGBTQ+ activists.
  • While some worry businesses might dial back their support of the LGBTQ+ community as a result of the backlash, evidence on the ground suggests that’s not happening.
  • Companies that support LGBTQ+ inclusion are more innovative and perform better on financial metrics such as share price and return on equity.

Visible and vocal corporate support for LGBTQ+ equality has become a fixture of Pride Season. Many are wondering whether we’ve now hit ‘peak Pride,’ as brands such as Bud Light, North Face, Starbucks and Target find themselves targeted by anti-LGBTQ+ activists in the US.

But look beyond this month’s feverish media coverage and Twitterstorms, and you’ll see a different story. As CEO of Open For Business, a coalition of global companies working to advance LGBTQ+ equality, I’ve spent the past few months travelling to meet with business leaders all over the world. I can tell you that business support, even in the most difficult of places, is strengthening.


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Sometimes this support is very public: when the Ugandan parliament recently passed a brutal anti-LGBTQ+ law, businesses got behind our campaign to persuade President Museveni not to sign it. Often, the work is deep inside the business. Companies like EY and Deloitte, for example, are starting to measure their own LGBTQ+ pay gap, without any prompt from regulators. Some have even created dedicated departments to channel their support as effectively as possible, such as JP Morgan’s Office of LGBT+ affairs.

If corporate support for inclusion runs deep, and stretches far beyond Pride Season, it’s for a few good reasons.

1. Business sees the underlying global trend towards greater LGBTQ+ equality

The vicious anti-LGBTQ+ campaigns currently underway in many countries should be seen for what they are: a backlash against the long arc of progress towards equality. Several recent datapoints suggest that support for LGBTQ+ inclusion is growing, not declining, particularly among younger generations.

For example, 9% of adults identify as LGBT+, according to the Ipsos LGBT+ Pride 2023 survey, which took a 30-country average. And there are sharp generational differences: in the US, 7.2% of all individuals identify as LGBTQ+, but this rises to 21% for Gen-Z individuals.

Sexual orientation by gender and generation
Sexual orientation by gender and generation Image: Ipsos

And regardless of their sexual orientation, younger adults are also much more likely to support LGBTQ+ marriage equality, according a Pew Research Center survey fielded in 24 countries. Encouragingly, the difference is very pronounced in countries with hostile LGBTQ+ policies, such as Kenya and Poland, where adults under 40 are twice as likely to support marriage equality than their older compatriots.

Support for same-sex marriage by age
Support for same-sex marriage by age Image: Pew Research Center

Encouragingly, the share of people worldwide who say their local area is a good place for gay or lesbian people to live has doubled from 25% to 50% over the past 10 years, according to a Gallup Poll of 110 countries. India was one of the countries with the largest increases (+42%); countries across Asia and Eastern Europe also saw large increases.

Global residents' perception of their local area as a
Global residents' perception of their local area as a Image: Gallup

2. LGBTQ+ inclusion is driven by fundamental commercial imperatives

For many corporations, support for Pride starts at home. Our coalition partners have significant numbers of LGBTQ+ employees: according to analysis by Windo, 1 in 10 employees identify as LGBTQ+ at HSBC, IBM and Meta, for example.

There are also sound commercial drivers for LGBTQ+ inclusion, and Open For Business has been collecting the data on this since our launch in 2015. For example, our research has found that people who work in inclusive workplaces have much higher levels of engagement and satisfaction, and they're more likely to “speak up” with new ideas.

Our research also suggests that companies that support LGBTQ+ inclusion are better able to compete for talent, are more innovative and collaborative, and perform better on financial metrics such as share price, cost of capital and return on equity.

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Our analyses also show that LGBTQ+ inclusion is associated with higher levels of entrepreneurship and is correlated to GDP growth. In particular, our Open For Business City Ratings show that LGBTQ+ inclusive cities are more globally competitive.

Recognition that business runs better when everybody is able to fully participate is not new. Take IBM, for example: In the 1950s, it defied lawmakers in the racially segregated US South by opening non-segregated manufacturing facilities – more than a decade before the passage of the US Civil Rights Act. It also enacted equal pay for equal work in 1935 , almost three decades before the US Equal Pay Act. When it comes to LGBTQ+ inclusion, companies like this know it’s not about being ‘woke’, it’s how business works best.

No time for complacency

The global LGBTQ+ community is up against well-organized and well-funded campaigns by the enemies of equality – an unholy axis of religious fundamentalist groups and populist conservative politicians. The stakes are high and business has a unique role to play. This is about more than Pride flags and rainbow logos. It’s about what it means to run a good business.

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