Pinkwashing: An image-whitening practice that you should avoid

June is Pride and Rainbow Flag Month. Meanwhile, some companies are riding this wave to practice pinkwashing.

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In June the streets of many cities are filled with colors, rainbow flags begin to fly on corporate buildings and social networks are filled with profile photos that refer to love and diversity. We are in LGBTIQ+ Pride Month. However, in the midst of this wave of visibility and acceptance, a recurring criticism arises towards some of the entities that join the celebrations. We talk about pinkwashing.  

The phenomenon of pinkwashing has gained attention as a practice in which companies and organizations promote a progressive and supportive image of the LGBTIQ+ community, primarily for commercial or public relations purposes. Although these gestures may seem inclusive and well-intentioned, they often lack a real and deep commitment to the cause.  

Behind colorful advertisements and promotions often hide contradictory practices that do not reflect genuine support for the rights and needs of the community. In this context, it is essential to discern between truly inclusive initiatives and those that simply seek to capitalize on the spirit of pride without contributing to substantive change. Regarding pride month, we talk in this post about pinkwashing and its consequences.  

Origin of the term pinkwashing 

The term pinkwashing has its origins in the combination of the words “pink” and “whitewashing. ” This concept emerged in the 90s when many companies used the fight against breast cancer, which is associated with the color pink, to promote their products or improve their image, even though some of these products could contain ingredients linked to cancer. 

Over time, the term pinkwashing has evolved. It is now used to describe companies that try to appear friendly to the LGBTIQ+ community, while still maintaining business practices that are exploitative, discriminatory, or that do not substantively support this community beyond superficial marketing

In this way, pinkwashing is a way of taking advantage of the struggle and visibility of the LGBTIQ+ community to improve the public image of a brand without contributing to its progress and well-being. 

How can pinkwashing affect your brand? 

Let’s make it clear from now on pinkwashing has negative effects on the perception and reputation of your brand. That said, we share with you some details of how this practice can affect the company:  

  • Loss of credibility and trust: when a company is perceived as practicing pinkwashing, it loses credibility with consumers. This directly affects trust, as consumers may feel deceived or manipulated. 
  • Negative Reactions from the LGBTIQ+ Community: The LGBTIQ+ community and its allies are increasingly aware of and critical of pinkwashing. If a brand is perceived as exploiting the struggles and symbols of the LGBTIQ+ community without offering real support, it may face criticism and protests from activists and consumers within and outside the community. 
  • Reputational damage: Pinkwashing can damage a brand’s reputation in the long term. Superficial actions of support can be seen as opportunism or an attempt to capitalize on events like Pride Month without genuine social responsibility or commitment to diversity and inclusion. 
  • Legal and regulatory risks: Some marketing practices that use false or misleading claims may face legal action. For example, regulations on false advertising may apply if a company is accused of making false claims about its support of the LGBTIQ+ community. 
  • Internal impact on employees: Pinkwashing actions can also affect employees internally. If a company does not back up its external claims with inclusive internal policies and practices, it can lead to discontent and demotivation.  

Keys to identify pinkwashing 

Now, let’s address pinkwashing from the users’ point of view. How can you identify if a company uses this practice in its marketing strategy? The first thing is to go beyond temporary statements and symbols of support for the LGBTIQ+ community. When evaluating a company’s commitment to inclusion, look for clear internal policies that are sustained over time.  

Also keep in mind that pinkwashing tends to manifest itself in superficial gestures during events like Pride Month, without genuine support the rest of the year. To identify if a company is authentically engaged, look at the actions it takes the rest of the year. If you only run temporary marketing campaigns, be suspicious. Also, don’t lose sight of possible contradictions between corporate practices and public statements.  

For example, a company may change its logo to rainbow colors during Pride Month, but what about the rest of the year? Does the company have inclusive policies for LGBTIQ+ employees? Do you actively support LGBTIQ+ organizations through donations or volunteering? If the answer to these questions is no, then the company may be using pinkwashing to improve its public image without taking any meaningful action for equality and diversity. 

Tips to avoid pinkwashing 

If you want to avoid pinkwashing in your company, we share some tips that you can put into practice. Of course, we can already tell you the main key: be consistent between what you say and do . Remember that the fight for equality, inclusion, respect for diversity and love in all its forms goes beyond a month or a time frame. 

To this, we can add the following tips: 

  • Be transparent about your inclusion and diversity efforts. Publish sustainability or inclusion reports that detail your policies, programs and the real impact of your actions. Transparency builds trust. 
  • Provides regular diversity, inclusion and LGBTIQ+ sensitivity training at all levels of the organization. This helps create a more inclusive and empathetic work environment, where all employees feel valued and respected. 
  • Do not use LGBTIQ+ symbols or messages only as a temporary marketing strategy. Make sure your actions reflect an authentic and respectful commitment to the community and avoid practices that could be perceived as pinkwashing. 
  • Establish meaningful partnerships with LGBTIQ+ organizations and allies that support your values ​​and inclusion goals. This may include collaborations on community initiatives, educational events and awareness campaigns. 

Do you want to stay up to date on this and other topics such as the LGTBI protocol for companies? Stay reading the Educa.Pro blog with us!

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