National Runaway Safeline

Pride Month:
Let's Talk Rainbow Washing

Every June, in recognition of Pride Month, we see an abundance of rainbow flags and other signs of support for the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Many organizations, including the National Runaway Safeline, even adjust their branding to include colors from the rainbow flag or the Progress Pride flag, showing their support and allyship with the LGBTQIA2S+ community. While well intentioned, the use of such symbols and branding can create backlash when incorporated without additional activities and messages showing further allyship. 

To the public, rainbow symbols suggest inclusivity, acceptance, and a supportive environment. However, if rainbow branding is not part of broader efforts to support the LGBTQIA2S+ community, it may be perceived as an empty or even exploitative gesture. Critics may interpret rainbow branding as a ploy for such companies to improve their brand’s reputation or to make money rather than to create positive change. Rainbow branding within companies should exist to foster a safe corporate culture with initiatives that boost diversity, equity, and inclusion. Though, some may be dubious of a brand’s intentions when they incorporate the flag into their branding or products without any further positive action. 

This is how the term “rainbow washing” was coined. Rainbow washing refers to using rainbow imagery in a way that is misleading regarding a group’s actual policies and intentions. An example from a Fortune 500 company is a recent tweet that stated, “We can #TURNUPTHELOVE for LGBTQ+ youth together,” followed by a line of hearts in the colors of the rainbow flag. While this seems like a kind gesture, that same year, this company donated over $1 million to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians. Thus, the company “rainbow washed” their message, likely using the messaging not to reflect their true corporate values, but to capitalize on Pride Month and potentially increase their revenue. 

While it may be challenging to know a company’s true motivations behind their Pride month efforts, you can get a better understanding of their level of support for the LGBTQIA2S+ community by considering several questions: How has the company shown their support for the LGBTQIA2S+ community in the past? Have they set measurable goals for providing support in the future? Are their goals and actions informed by people within the LGBTQIA2S+ community? How do they treat LGBTQIA2S+ employees within their organization? 

We applaud companies and organizations that showcase the rainbow flag during Pride Month — it represents hope, resilience and solidarity for a community that has been marginalized throughout history. However, it is essential that the inclusion of this symbol be reflective of the broader work that companies do during Pride and all year long to demonstrate true allyship to the LGBTQIA2S+ community. 

Share This Post

Recent Posts

Partner Spotlight: Waypoint & The Rochester Police Department

As a New Hampshire-based nonprofit, Waypoint’s mission is to empower people of all ages through an array of human services and advocacy. In addition to serving youth experiencing homelessness, they offer programs for seniors and adults with disabilities, children with developmental or chronic health conditions, families affected by incarceration, and others throughout the state.

Partner Spotlight: Midwest Youth Services

Without Midwest Youth Services (MYS), more youth would be on the streets and be targets for exploitation and crime. MYS provides 24 hours, 7-day-a-week crisis intervention, mediation, and emergency shelter to vulnerable children. Their mission is to divert youth from the juvenile justice and child welfare systems while helping to strengthen and restore families.

Partner Spotlight: Hale Kipa

Since 1970, Hale Kipa, has championed Hawai‘i’s youth and children. They provide youth outreach, independent living facilities, therapeutic foster care, a haven for runaways, and more. Their founders recognized a need for a nonprofit to assist this deserving population and they remain committed to this critical work today, on O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, and the Island of Hawai‘i.

Scroll to Top

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings we’ll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the NRS website. 

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings we’ll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the NRS website.