Gay Rights Boycotts threaten Best Buy and Target claiming lack of Business Ethics? Really?

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!

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9 Responses to Gay Rights Boycotts threaten Best Buy and Target claiming lack of Business Ethics? Really?

  1. Graham says:

    Chuck,

    While I agree no candidate will ever please everyone on every issue I take issue with your position. Lets replace gay with black, jewish or asian. Should black people be happy with Target if they had a history of employment diversity but gave money to a candidate that supported segregation? Or would make it illegal for them to marry or adopt children? I don’t think so. I can appreciate that Target has business interests that they want to see supported at the state level. But equality is a fundamental tenet of American life.

  2. Michael in LA says:

    You really are smug. You probably have never experienced corporate, structural and governmental discrimination. Target gave money to a politician who has vowed to deny gays and lesbians te rig to marry. You can say. Consumers are concerned about their jobs and the economy but they also care about being treated fairly. I wonder how you’d fell if target gave a donation to a politician that supported sending drunken micas back to ireland. That wouldn’t even come close to the hurt and rage gay and lesbian target shopper feel. We don’t want target to swallow an agenda hook line and sinker. We want equal treatment and respect. Sometng you clearly know boning about you dub ass fucktard. Tr ethics are suspect wi an email like this. Where’s your empathy douche bag?

    • Well…Michael you show your true colors here. First, I have, as a convicted felon, experienced corporate discrimination. My crime occurred 25 years ago, yet I am denied the opportunity for gainful employment even though my life has radically changed for the better. Second, my issue is with the all or nothing approach this boycott takes. Best Buy is one of the highest ranked employers when it comes to gay employees, yet, because of one politician and one contribution you would throw that away? Third, what’s a “Mica” and for the record I’ve been adopted twice so I’m not Irish. Your comments would be much more valuable if you could articulate them clearly without resorting to your less than intelligent language. But, for now, you don’t have the right to marry on a national basis, Target and Best Buy are two highly ranked gay friendly employers, so you might want to focus on keeping jobs first and changing the law second. Michael…it isn’t all or nothing…at least not for most of us.

  3. James says:

    Chuck – thanks for the opportunity to give feedback. I think the confusion many people such as yourself have is that they misunderstand the underlying conflict. It’s the discriminatory aspect of the position. Do I vote for politicians that don’t share 100% of my views on the issues? Of course. But this isn’t about a politician who doesn’t believe in marriage. This is a politician who doesn’t believe in marriage for a minority group. (He’s fine with it for everyone who “looks” like him.) Put another way – could I vote for a politician who believes in tax cuts for the top 1% of wage earners? You bet. However, what if that politician only believed in tax cuts for the top 1% of wage earners who are male? (If you’re female, you don’t get the tax cut.) That’s clearly a different issue. And I certainly wouldn’t question why my female friends would refuse to vote for him/her on that issue alone.

    Has Target adopted fair employment policies in house? That’s clearly yes. But now they’re helping elect someone who wants to change state law to discriminate against gays. (State law that would override their in house policies.) While I appreciate their “apology” – until they balance that out, they have still promoted inequality over equality in their political contributions. Their actions no longer match their rhetoric.

  4. Josh says:

    300,000 sounds like a really small number. If anything that is on the extreme low end of gay shoppers at target. Atlanta,Ga alone has a Gay community of 250,000. Most gay men and women I know go to target and refuse to ever go to wal mart.

    This boycott is not about taking hook line and sinker the “GAY AGENDA”. As if the gay agenda is some horrible conspiracy known as EQUALITY. Was the civil rights movement of the Black community a “Black Agenda” or that of women and “female Agenda”. Was the Jew liberation from the nazis “Jewish Agenda” was the Kosovo Conflict an “Albanian Agenda”? Its such bull shit that gays are second class citizens even in the mind of ordinary columnists. Why do gays who pay taxes, own companies, support the community, fight in the military, and contribute to the safety of America by not being a high crime community still considered not eligible for the same protections? Almost every gay dense populated areas of a city are considered the best neighborhoods to live.

    Its taught to us in history that even the little slaps in the face can quickly turn into something disgusting. Almost every event in history the stomped or destroyed the rights and lives of a minority was started with a slight turn of a cold shoulder or the whispering behind the backs of your fellow citizens, or donations to hate machines such as the republican party that wants to destroy and erase every step youve made toward equality.

    I wish all Americans would be as brave to boycott in mass numbers. If so we wouldnt have the supreme court telling corps they own our elections. Our elected officials wouldnt be so sneaky and saying one thing to our face while obstructing congress on the other because of political lines. I firmly believe that the hate towards gays was started by religion and now has turning into jealously. I cant count how many people are jealous and enraged by the success of the average gay person. As a community we contribute greatly to this country, its safely, its value, its work force, and its economy. All while being considered second class citizens.

  5. David says:

    I would also like to add something here that the author of the article and subsequent comments failed to mention. It is not simply that the candidate supported does not agree with the “gay agenda” as you state, but rather it is that this particular candidate supports a group that advocates the killing of gays and lesbians. Let me repeat that in case you missed it…this candidate supports an organization that actively promotes and supports the KILLING of gays and lesbians. So, while I agree that the creation of a workplace that is gay friendly must be weighed in when making decisions about where to shop, what good is a gay friendly work environment when I, as a gay man, must fear for my life. At the end of the day I would rather be alive and work in a less gay friendly environment, than be targeted for death and have a gay friendly workplace.

    • In response to David’s comment…I am unfamiliar with the candidate in question, but if what David say’s is true – then there should be multiple courses of action that mobilize citizens to keep someone out of leadership that supports killing anyone based on their personal preferences. To be clear, my post just questioned the choice of focusing a boycott against a business based on their political contribution.

      • David says:

        To be fair (and clear)…the candidate in question does not promote killing gays..although he definitely is opposed to gay marriage. However, he supports and has donated to an organization that does in fact advocate the killing of gays and lesbians. To some it is a stretch to boycott a company that supports a candidate that supports a group that supports killing gays…that is why we each as individuals have to make our own decision on this (and all cases I guess) I personally have chosen to spend my gay dollars elsewhere.

  6. sayings says:

    quotations…

    Gay Rights Boycotts threaten Best Buy and Target claiming lack of Business Ethics? Really? « Motivational Speaker – Chuck Gallagher Business Ethics and Choices Expert…

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