CEO of Interbrand North America likens boycotts and brands taking bold positions with regard to socially conscious issues as a means through which to generate loyalty among like-minded customers. With the LGBT community, boycotts have had a huge economic impact on states policies and businesses that take positions that go against progressive initiatives for the gay community in the fight for equality. Last spring, North Carolina and Mississippi were under massive scrutiny for passing laws that were discriminatory against gay, lesbian, and transgender residents. Brands stuck together and called for repeal and threatened to stop or scale back business operations in the two states.
Mississippi’s law was called “the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act” which would allow organizations or individuals to refuse service or even support to gays, lesbians, same-sex couples or transgender residents. The bill even went so far as to allow employers to fire, not hire, protect adoption groups, landlords, and wedding-vendors from working with someone whose sexual orientation or transgender status is opposed by the religious beliefs of a company. The refusal was on the basis of “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” North Carolina’s “Bathroom Bill” required state residents use public restrooms associated with their birth gender.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) cited that recent legislation in North Carolina regarding bathroom legislation cost the state more than $500 million dollars from companies who cancelled and/or reconsidered plans to do business in the state. The economic impact of these cancellations comes to fruition when companies decide to cancel conventions, artists decide to halt their tour stops and cancel concerts, and lost dollars from tourism from those who may otherwise have contributed to the state economy.
Over 200 corporate CEOs signed a letter last April in efforts led by the HRC and Equality NC. Many of the businesses that signed took a position that only strengthened LGBT loyalty to those companies. As Feldmeth points out, “People like brands because they make them feel good about themselves or they share their values. Nothing could be more valuable to a brand than having clarity about what they stand for.”
Technology companies with data centers in North Carolina like Facebook, Google, and Amazon were some of the first to approach Equality NC opposing the legislation.
When state and federal policies do not reflect inclusive business policies for the LGBT community, companies feel it is a natural stance to look to repeal or prevent such legislation. Diversity and inclusion are at the core of the values and principles of many brands. When state government policies or federal policies contradict business values, many believe the impact is more effective than a donation to a nonprofit.
The fiscal impact of the tourism industry and hospitality groups see immediate impact as well when events are cancelled and the state as a whole gets a reputation of not embracing diversity or inclusion. Read more about the negative and lasting impact of the negative media surrounding the legislation and the brands who spoke out to include diversity internally and in the places they will conduct or expand business.
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