On Saturday, eighty boats sail along the Amsterdam canals during the Canal Parade. At a few dozen of them are companies and organizations that sometimes bring their own brand to the attention with great display. The parade is, of course, intended to promote LGBT rights, but the support of companies is necessary.
A large part of the money for the largest LGBT party in the Netherlands must come from contributions from companies. The costs for organizing the Pride this year amount to € 1.4 million, while the event can count on a € 250,000 subsidy from the municipality of Amsterdam.
Major players such as Shell, Uber and Phillips are making financial contributions this year. For example, around 20,000 euros is paid to sail as a brand. In return, they get the chance to sail or they become members of the Pride Business Club from 1,500 euros.
And sometimes commercialization catches the eye. In New York, for example, a movement split off from the big pride event. The new movement, Reclaim Pride, thought the larger parade was an inflated event with too many companies and too many police.
"Internal program and network"
"The Pride is a low-threshold way to show that as a company you are working on equal rights for everyone," says Joost de Leij. As a creative strategist at Limelights, he helps companies with corporate social responsibility.
A sponsored boat or membership of the Pride Business Club can be good for the reputation of a company. However, De Leij notes that this is not enough.
"If you are on board, but do not have an internal program and network that tries to improve the inclusiveness and diversity of your company, you will lose enormous credibility. Employees will not want to work for such a company."
According to De Leij, both employees and consumers are quick to understand when companies use 'pinkwashing' - LGBT awareness as an advertising tool to appear tolerant and hip.
No company wants to miss the boat
Many multinationals are contributing to the Pride this year and also have programs to promote diversity and inclusiveness. This ensures that other large companies cannot be left behind. "After all, no large company wants to miss the boat."
To ensure that companies actually contribute something and not only participate as a floating advertising block, the Pride organization applies certain conditions that companies must meet before they can connect their name to the event.
"Clothing stores such as Primark that suddenly sell T-shirts with a rainbow flag on them around the Pride or individuals who invite people to pay for hundreds of euros on a boat, as an organization, we strongly oppose this," says Wouter Neerings, chairman of the Pride Business Club. and the Corporate Pride Committee. "It should absolutely not be 'watching gays'."
'Boardroom activism' with a big impact
"Entrepreneurs must actively work on diversity and inclusiveness within the organization, otherwise they will not fit in with the Pride." For example, the organization carefully looks at the annual plans of interested companies and then assesses whether they also take their social responsibility.
Neerings mentions Uber as an example. The American taxi service was actively campaigning in Australia for the introduction of same-sex marriage. In the Netherlands, for example, HEMA promotes LGBT rights by, for example, marrying foreign couples during the Pride. "I call it 'boardroom activism' because it is precisely the large companies that can make a major impact in terms of inclusiveness and sustainability. Especially the new generation finds this enormously important."
Inclusiveness as an important responsibility
Such investments will not pay for themselves quickly, says Neerings. "If the companies had to pay LGBT items from their marketing budget, it was immediately canceled, because it does not yield much profit. The value lies in the fact that you show everyone in your company via the Pride Amsterdam "
According to both De Leij and Neerings, large companies see the social added value of an inclusive and large event such as the Pride. More and more companies consider contributing to an inclusive and tolerant society as an important responsibility.
This contributes to a positive working environment and binds employees to the organization. Neerings: "Companies attach great importance to having an open and inclusive organization. That fits in seamlessly with the mission of Pride Amsterdam."