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What is Pinkwashing and How Can You Avoid it?

What is Pinkwashing and How Can You Avoid it?


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Pride Month started on the 1st of June in the UK, and many brands will be gearing up to begin their LGBTQI + focused campaigns. While some brands will look to show their support for the celebrations, others will use Pride month to demonstrate their ‘progressiveness’ and a chance to market their products to the LGBTQI + audience. 

So what is Pinkwashing? 

Pinkwashing is a critical term used to refer to the practice of attempting to benefit from purported support for LGBTQ+ rights, often as a way to profit or to distract from a separate agenda. It can also be referred to as rainbow-washing, although pinkwashing is significantly more popular colloquially. You may have heard similar terms such as “green-washing” regarding environmental issues with zero real implication in sustainability and “purple-washing” regarding the visibility of the feminist movement without actions to change.  We’ve taken a look at the brands who have missed the mark in previous years and have compiled our suggestions for a successful Pride campaign.

Brands that have missed the mark:

  1. Pret A Manger: Pret’s ‘Pride A Manger’ stunt wasn’t the most creative or impactful. The company decided to curate a ‘pride playlist’ to play throughout its shops during pride month. Other than sticking to strict stereotypes by nearly exclusively playing the Spice Girls, we can only assume that the brief for this campaign was to pick generic songs loved by the LGBTQI + community. This campaign was a tad empty and not the most representative! However, we appreciate their ability to not slap a rainbow on their baguettes. The same can’t be said for M&S…
  1. M&S: It always feels a bit forced when companies randomly decide to take everyday items and brand them as ‘proud’. This can be said for the M&S L(lettuce) G(guacamole) B(a) T(tomato) sandwich. However, despite donating a portion of the profits to a charity, the donation of £10,000 to AKT, the UK’s LGBTQ youth homelessness charity, didn’t compare much to the £10 million in revenue
  2. Amazon: On the surface, Amazon’s Pride campaign was a well-thought-out approach to celebrating the historic month. They released this article detailing their plans for 2022: “Amazon is marking this year’s pride month with a series of interactive events and celebrations for employees organised by our LGBTQ+ affinity group, Glamazon.” However, many people (particularly on Twitter) have pointed out that Amazon notoriously donates to members of Congress who voted against the Equality Act. This bill would ban discrimination in the United States based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Amazon tried to defend its donations, saying that it engages with policymakers and regulators on a wide range of issues: “That does not mean we agree with any individual or political organisation 100 per cent of the time on every issue,” the company explained, “and this includes legislation that discriminates or encourages discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.”
  3. Burger King: To promote a Whopper in Austria, the company’s ad agency suggested selling “two equal buns”—two tops or two bottoms. Some found the sexual reference funny, but others were offended, notably because Burger King used the joke only for financial gain. Unlike other brands, the company didn’t include, for example, a donation to an LGBTQI+ organisation.

How can brands avoid Pinkwashing?

  1. Donate: Creating authentic campaigns doesn’t have to be complicated. A straightforward way to make your campaign meaningful is by donating to LGBTQI + charities. 
  1. Educate: Organising educational workshops for your company is an impactful way to honour Pride Month. By encouraging your employees to learn more about the history of the LGBTQI + community and the struggles the community faces, your company can do more to progress workplace inclusivity.
  1. Long-Term Changes: Pride month is an excellent time for some reflection. Take a look at your company and what long-term decisions you can make to support LGBTQI+ communities in your workplace.
  1. Circulate Policies: Clarifying your protections and policies for LGBTQI+ employees demonstrates openness and transparency in your business. Additionally, circulating your company policies opens the conversation for how you can better support LGBTQI+ employees.
  1. Use Your Platform: Sharing information, resources, or even just fun content produced by LGBTQI+ creators is an excellent way to use your platform mindfully. This takes profit out of your activism and helps uplift the community’s voices. 


There’s no fool-proof way to avoid Pinkwashing. However, the key is to view Pride Month as an opportunity to educate, donate, and raise awareness for the LGBTQI+ community. Don’t view Pride Month as a marketing opportunity, but instead, as a time to share crucial information and learn more about Pride. In turn, your customers and employees can benefit from your support.

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