Pepsi risks boycott with donation to gay support group

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A leading soft drinks manufacturer has decided to donate $500,000 (£277,000) to a programme for workplace equality.

PepsiCo Foundation’s gift to Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) will be used to develop and support the Straight for Equality programme.

PFLAG said the money will allow an expansion of workplace training, support chapter-based projects and fund the creation of new Straight for Equality outreach tools.

“PepsiCo has provided PFLAG with an enormous gift, and an unparalleled opportunity, to demonstrate the power we have to create change, no matter where we are, or who we are,” said PFLAG executive director Jody M. Huckaby.

“Because of the Foundation’s generosity and commitment, we now have the resources to produce materials for our chapters to use in their communities, and to create critically important conversations, in every corner of our country.”

PFLAG launched Straight for Equality in October 2007.

The programme, designed to reach the straight ally who doesn’t necessarily have a family connection in the traditional PFLAG sense, has been hailed as an effective and unique model for reaching new potential allies who share PFLAG’s commitment to equality for all.

“The challenge wasn’t just figuring out how to talk to these potential supporters,” said PFLAG national president John Cepek.

“It was about finding the place where, on a national level, we could get the conversation started, and keep up the momentum moving forward.”

The PepsiCo Foundation gift, the company said, is intended to continue building and implementing the unique Straight for Equality approach to relationship building.

“We are delighted to continue our partnership with PFLAG,” stated Jacqueline Millan, Director of PepsiCo Corporate Contributions.

“The Straight for Equality in the Workplace training programme is unique in that it is promoting the necessary message of inclusion to untapped groups within the local community, and that is a crucial step towards building a healthy working environment.”

The gift from Pepsi and the publicity surrounding it may anger some fundamentalist Christian groups.

In July the American Family Association called on consumers to boycott McDonald’s after the company said it will continue to support gay staff.

McDonald’s Vice President of Communications Richard Ellis recently joined the board of directors of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC).

The anti-gay AFA claims that the multi-national restaurant chain is “refusing to remain neutral in the culture wars.”

The group targeted IKEA last year for showing gay families in their ads, and has led boycotts of Ford and Disney because of their commitment to equality.

The AFA describes itself as: “a Christian organisation promoting the biblical ethic of decency in American society with primary emphasis on TV and other media.”

Last year in a dramatic u-turn Wal-Mart, the largest grocer in the US and the second largest in the world, stepped back from the active support it was previously giving to gay-rights groups.

The AFA threatened to boycott Wal-Mart’s next big sales period and condemned the blanket support it offered to gay-friendly business initiatives.

The company succumbed to the AFA’s latest threat to urge shoppers to boycott their post-Thanksgiving sale.