Seems that today must be my day to write about things that create controversy. First, I wrote about the US Department of Justice hiring folks who speak “Ebonics” and got called a racist and now I’m writing about gay folks who are boycotting businesses who are not “gay” friendly. Why not?
Barbara Farfan, on August 24, 2010 wrote the following:
Here’s why the U.S. retail industry in general and Target (TGT) and Best Buy (BBY) in particular can’t afford to ignore the ongoing boycotts that are being led by the LGBT community in protest of corporate campaign contributions to an anti-gay rights politicial candidate. According to statistics quoted by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a gay rights advocacy organization:
- The buying power of the LGBT community was $759 billion in 2009
- 78% of LGBT people are likely to do business with companies that are known to have gay-friendly workplaces
I started looking at this wondering how did it hit my radar screen when I write about Business Ethics and fraud prevention? Rarely, and I mean rarely, do I have anything to say about “Gay” rights. So when this article popped up I was taken back a bit. I mean who knew that there were organized boycotts? (Opening #1 for critical comment – just pointing these out for those who wish to take the time to share an opinion – which is welcome). Barbara goes on to say:
The largest U.S. retail chains have a customer base in the millions, so 300,000 lost customers scattered around 50 states may not seem significant. But in the past three years, we’ve seen retailers do some crazy Hail Mary marketing in order to lure customers through the front door. To alienate 300,000 consumers in one fell swoop is not an insignificant thing. And certainly it is not fiscally responsible in the midst of what is only a technical recession recovery to drive consumers with $759 billion in their pockets to the doorsteps of the competition.
Last week the HRC announced that it would be removing both Target (TGT) and Best Buy (BBY) from its list of gay-friendly companies recommended on its LGBT shopping guide. The HRC has apparently made good on that threat because as of this writing, Target and Best Buy are now absent from that list.
Target has been the main target of the consumer protests that refuse to die, but Best Buy is equally as culpable in its support of a Minnesota political candidate who openly opposes gay rights. While the support of the candidate is offensive to the LGBT community, the betrayal is worse. At the political point of purchase, both Best Buy and Target proved that gaining a political advantage was more important than losing LGBT customers.
Ahhh…now I’m beginning to see…it’s politics in action. In order to be a “gay friendly” establishment the business enterprise must bite – hook – line – and sinker the LGBT community position? Really? Somehow I’m beginning to sense that this is way out of whack since Barbara states: (oh…yea here’s the #2 spot to fire in there with comments)
The reason the LGBT community feels so betrayed is because Target and Best Buy are both well-known for their gay-friendly workplace policies. Both companies received perfect Corporate Equality Index Ratings from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) organization in 2010. This means that in every way that the HRC measures, Best Buy and Target are gay-friendly with their employees. With their perfect scores, Best Buy and Target both earned a spot on the HRC’s 2010 “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality” list.
There are specific sexual orientation non-discrimination policies in the Best Buy employee handbook. The benefits provided to same sex partners are almost identical to the benefits provided to opposite sex spouses of Best Buy employees. There are LGBT employee resource groups accessible to Best Buy lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. There are even written policies and procedures addressing employees making sexual transitions while working at Best Buy.
Hum…both Best Buy and Target are ranked as best places to work by the LGBT and yet the are now being boycotted? Sorry, but I’m lost. Let me put it this way, if someone ran for President, whose policies I 90% supported, but they had one aspect that I disagreed with – would I vote for my candidate or his/her opponent? Seems to me that the LGBT is skewed in their approach to ethical behavior – favoring rather an all or nothing approach which could prove more harmful than gainful to their supporters.
Best Buy has published a “Code of Business Ethics” document which talks at length about the principles and philosophies that (supposedly) guide the decisions of its leaders and employees. On page two of that document, it says this:
- “ETHICS AND ACTION – Ethics is about putting principles into action. Consistency between what we say we value and what our actions say we value is a matter of integrity.”
Now here’s where Barbara and the LGBT are missing it. She states: “You’re right, Best Buy. The difference between saying that you support LGBT rights and taking an action to support a man who would be in a position to squash LGBT rights is a matter of integrity. And that is what consumers are upset about.”
Consumers are upset – really? Consumers are more concerned about their jobs, their livelihoods, their families and getting the economy back on track than they are about a campaign contribution made by Target or Best Buy. Shucks…if you were going to buy a nice big flat screen TV where else would you go other than Best Buy? Circuit City (oops they’re out of business)…O.K. maybe Wal-Mart – but good luck on support from Wally World. (I know here’s spot #3 to really get the dander up and comments flowing)
While Ethics may be about putting principles into actions, Ethics does not demand that every action be congruent with what a minority group feels is in their best interests. In fact, Mr. Spock said it best in Star Trek II (I think) – “Jim…the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” My guess is – Best Buy, Target and others find that the candidate that they support have many positive positions and attributes that are business friendly…that keep people employed…employed in a gay tolerate atmosphere – which, by the way, is good for all. That is ethical principles put into action.
Barbara writes – Right again. Sometimes an ethical organization chooses to do less than the law allows. In this case, doing less than the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling allows would have meant exercising financial restraint in not supporting a candidate who openly seeks to oppress a significant segment of your customer population, no matter how much his business politics will benefit the company’s bottom line.
So, perhaps Best Buy should gather together all those who are authorized to make political contributions in a boardroom and read page two together. Out loud. And then discuss.
I agree, but those who need to be discussing are Barbara and the folks at the LGBT, cause it seems that they are so focused on a narrow agenda that they might miss the opportunity to enhance employment in those companies who do have to face shareholders who (honestly) care more about the bottom line than a minority group that feels slighted cause a candidate is not “position” friendly. (here’s another great place to attack me with your comments – just saying).
It seems like Target and Best Buy are just waiting for the firestorm of consumer protests to burn itself out or allow the next big corporate drama to take over the headlines. Here’s why that’s probably not going to happen any time soon…The HRC does a pretty masterful job at organizing and motivating LGBT activism. The LGBT community is encouraged to support the corporations that support the LGBT community. And that reciprocal back-scratching philosophy is backed up by some well-executed infrastructure.
Let me clearly state – I support the right of citizens to support (or not) vendors and businesses of their choice. There is power in spending and taking a position. I, however, exercising my freedom of speech, believe that Ethical behavior is not an all or none position. It is not black and white – gay friendly or not. Rather the application of ethics looks at the whole and asks – is the behavior of the company (in this case) – individual – or group (LGBT) acting in the best interest of ALL concerned. I, for one, love to shop at Best Buy and wouldn’t find my choice changed whether Best Buy supported a black, Hispanic or white candidate or one who supported abortions or not – I shop where I shop because of how they treat their customers and a misguided (my opinion) boycott is pushing the envelop of what the definition of ethical behavior is.
Barbara nice article however and to all who read – YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!