We often talk about the corporations that support communities fighting for equality around the world, either through financing or organising special events. But of course, that takes place only in those countries where it is profitable. In Poland, many of those corporations forget their mission that they voice so loudly in the West.
Most corporations which participate in improving the situation of ethnic, national or sexual minorities declare that they do it because of the genuine conviction that equality is a very important value to them. On the other hand, studies show that programmes nurturing diversity in companies simply pay off financially. This is why we get to see big corporations being represented in events such as gay pride marches in countries like USA, UK or Germany. This is not the case in Poland though.
Every year the organisers of Warsaw Equality Parade address the Polish branches of the corporations that claim they believe in equality, justice and diversity. These companies however show no interest in supporting minorities in Poland.
This year Equality Parade turned to the following companies offering partnership (not necessarily financial help!): Absolut Vodka (a part of the Wyborowa SA holding), Accenture Ltd., American Express, Apple, Avon, Cisco Systems, Citi Handlowy, Coca-Cola, Credit Suisse, Dell, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, EA, eBay, Ernst & Young, Finlandia Vodka (also a part of Wyborowa SA holding), First Class Fitness, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, Hotel The Westin Warsaw, Hyatt Hotels, IBM, Ikea, ING, Johnson & Johnson, KFC, KPMG, LOT, Mariott Hotel, Mazurkas Travel, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Office Depot, Pfizer, PwC (previously: PricewaterhouseCoopers), Prudential, Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS AB), Smirnoff Vodka, Sodexo, Staples, Starbucks, Tesco, Tim Cook, Toyota, Unilever, Xerox and Yahoo! Inc.
A great majority of these brands are Polish branches of big multinational corporations that are famous for their involvement in the struggle for securing equal rights of LGBT persons. We received an answer to our invitation from… just four of them. All of them negative.
Katarzyna Lorecka, Citizen Manager at Microsoft, explained that their company is already “in the process of carrying out social projects planned for this year, which take up all of the company’s resources”, so they will not get involved in the Equality Parade 2015 in any way. It is a pity, considering that the corporation made a considerable donation to support the fight for marriage equality in the US in 2012 and released a commercial for the new version of their email application Outlook which featured a couple of women kissing outside a court captioned “Get-up-to-date”.
The Social Responsibility Manager at Tesco, Patrycja Bejm-Maras, explained that their company “does not get involved in the sort of actions as they are not in line with their strategy for the upcoming years”. Again, it is a shame, as Tesco not only significantly supported the London gay pride but was also the titular sponsor of the Family Area, a city festival accompanying World Pride in London 2012.
City Handlowy Bank decided to not answer us directly but passed our offer to the Kronenberg Foundation, that they are the founder of. It was Agnieszka Łukasiak, the Programme Coordinator of the foundation, that answered us on behalf of Citi Handlowy that “the mission of modern charity is accomplished by the bank through the Kronenberg Foundation, which has supported all kinds of work for the public good for 16 years. (…) Unfortunately, the described undertaking is beyond the Foundation’s guidelines and we will not be able to participate”. It is a shame since in 2012 the bank was the main sponsor of a very big conference “Out on the Street”, which dealt with issues surrounding LGBT people on Wall Street. Citi also got a hundred percent result in the ranking prepared by the Human Rights Campaign regarding workplaces that treat their employees equally.
The shortest reply came from Magdalena Skibka, a Consultant at Linkleaders, which is responsible for the PR of the brand Xerox in Poland: „thank you for taking interest in our brand, but for now we have to pass on the partnership offer”. It seems appropriate to add that Xerox has sanctioned the independent employee group named GALAXe Pride at Work, which unites LGBT employees and their allies. The company also organises conferences for them and prides itself that the group’s leader Sophie Vandebroek was honoured among other corporations. In December 2014 Xerox once again made it to the top of the aforementioned list of LGBT-friendly workplaces prepared by the Human Rights Campaign.
To be fair, it is important to note that these were the four companies that even bothered to reply to our repeated partnership offers (we cannot stress this enough: not necessarily a financial contribution!). Other companies did not even have the courage to write back. Let us add that in previous years Equality Parade also attempted contacting the parent companies of some holdings (Microsoft, IBM or Google among others) and also received no reply…
An important negative example is IBM, which in June 2014 received the Rainbow Bee „Anti-Award” from the Foundation LGBT Business Forum. IBM was involved greatly in the EuroPride event taking place in Warsaw in 2010. However, after some changes the company backed out from promoting any pro-equality initiatives and removed all photographs and accounts regarding their contribution in the event.