Canada’s first ever Pride Month commenced on July 1st 2016. Pride Month extends the previously week long Pride Week Canadians have marked for 35 years. The month-long festivities aim to recognize and celebrate the LGBTQ community and their contributions to Canadian culture. Canadians from coast to coast will participate in a series of cultural, social and educational events.
In Toronto, 2016’s Pride Parade took place on July 3rd and was attended by communities, businesses and corporations, religious groups, institutions and political leaders from all levels of government. Prime Minister Trudeau became the first sitting Prime Minister to participate in a Pride parade. While a celebration of life and diversity, this year’s events were marked with sombre reflection, the mass Orlando shootings fresh in the minds and hearts of attendees, and were a reminder that there’s still work to do.
Canada has been, and continues to be a welcoming and often safe haven for members of the LGBTQ community. Even before the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act in 2005, which provided a gender-neutral definition of marriage for all Canadians, same-sex couples were free to marry in eight of the ten provinces. With the Act, Canada became the first country outside Europe and the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. We have also legalized adoption for same-sex couples and banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in all its forms. Canada is frequently referred to as being one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world.
Support and awareness aren’t just coming from the general population, but from corporations and businesses at all levels – and rightly so. TD Bank, one of Canada’s highest-earning companies, is a sponsor of Pride Toronto and the Pride Parade. TD Bank and other organizations of similar stature know throwing their support behind pride is not only the right thing to do, it’s also good for business. In 2014, the LGBTQ community in the U.S was estimated to have generated almost $800 billion in buying power. During 2013’s Pride Festival, Toronto retailers, business owners and communities around the city felt the economic impact of $286 million flowing into the city, with 3,470 jobs created and $61 million generated in tax revenue.
In 2015, an online report by Nielsen reported that LGBTQ spending accounted for $3.8 billion in consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales across Canada. While the average self-identified LGBTQ household spent slightly less than their non-LGBTQ counterparts ($5,400 annually per household compared to $5,835), it spent more often and on average more per trip. LGBTQ households often have fewer members, but with incomes generally higher than the average population at more than $100,000, their buying power is greater.
Smart, forward-thinking organizations have already adopted and implemented equality practices in their workplaces that support and promote diversity. Whole industries, like banking, tourism, travel and leisure, have created ways to market to diverse communities that are respectful and inclusive. There’s still a long way to go. According to business blogger Amber Nasrulia, supply chain diversification is still catching up, even as its value is being recognized: “A company [needs] to diversify its supply chain to reflect the customer base … And smaller suppliers can provide more innovative solutions with cost-cutting opportunities.”
Why should businesses focus on the LGBTQ community? According to Laurence Bernstein, managing partner of Protean Strategies, it’s an identifiable and under-served niche market. By taking action, it’s possible for companies to gain a competitive advantage. A study by the Williams Institute at UCLA recently reported that same-sex marriages in the U.S. have generated “an estimated $1.58 billion boost to the national economy and $102 million in state and local sales tax revenue since the U.S. Supreme Court extended marriage equality nationwide in June 2015.” The wedding industry, with all the peripheral industries that support it, is only one example.
The second, more compelling reason for businesses step up is because inclusiveness is a critical part of corporate diversity. Doing so creates a positive, engaging environment for all employees, regardless of gender identification or sexual orientation. And that leads to lots of good things, like attracting and retaining highly skilled, educated, capable workers, attracting a diverse customer base, and increased productivity from a workforce that is creative, innovative, flexible and thinks outside the box. All of these advantages are critical for organizations looking to grow and thrive in today’s – and tomorrow’s – market.
The value of Pride? Priceless.