Pride decorated shop window

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Getty Images

It’s hard to miss the colours of the rainbow flag during Pride month.

Everything from High Street shops, supermarkets and banks are changing their logos, adding new window displays and selling special products.

But is this “rainbow washing”? In other words – is it jumping on a bandwagon without making any meaningful change?

Some LGBT campaigners are asking what brands actually do to support their community?

Years and Years singer Olly Alexander calls this “rainbow capitalism” and says it feels “especially icky” this year.

He told the BBC that on one hand “visibility is super-important” and he is grateful for the brands that “work responsibly with LGBT people” – but on the other side there has been a “corporate hijacking” of Pride.

Olly says brands should realise this can be “embarrassing” and that it’s not enough to donate money to LGBT charities.

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Olly Alexander/Instagram

He’s not the only one raising questions.

Other LGBT campaigners say this kind of support can feel tokenistic.

Tom Stevens, director of marketing at Pride in London, agrees that “sometimes it is icky”.

But he explains: “We can’t just say that all brand involvement in Pride is worrying or dangerous or bad news.”

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Tom Stevens from Pride in London

What do businesses do to support Pride?

Pride in London receives some £650,000 from corporate partners, which works out at about two-thirds of its income.

Tom Stevens says this means a million people can celebrate for free.

But Pride in London does not accept money from just any business.

He explains: “We do have an ethical policy, that all the brands we work with need to meet, and make sure that they’ve got inclusive policies.”

This year there are 35 partners, including Tesco and Barclays.

Tesco is selling T-shirts and other products and says it’s raised £150,000 for LGBT charities.

It says this is about more than just Pride month, that actually its Pride campaign lasts for five months “to show support for our colleagues, customers and the communities we serve”.

Comedian Joe Lycett tweeted Barclays about their involvement with Pride.

Adam Rowse speaks for the bank, and says it does use its position to try to influence positive change.

He says: “We were a supporter of marriage equality bills in the UK and the US, and we supported colleagues in Hong Kong who played an active role to allow LGBT+ couples the same immigration rights as heterosexual couples.”

Budweiser will be handing out free cups along the parade route as part of its #FlyTheFlag campaign. Each cup has been designed to feature one of the nine different Pride flags – representing different groups, such as trans people and bisexual people.

The beer company says all of its profits from Pride in London will be given to its nine charity partners.

‘We love the love, but be authentic’

Other companies might not be official partners, but you wouldn’t know it from the High Street.

London’s Oxford Street – the busiest shopping street in Europe – is part of the parade route and it’s rainbow-tastic.

Almost every shop has some kind of colourful display and pride/proud/love-based slogan.

“Great, show the love. We love the love” says Tom Stevens.

But, he says, they have to be authentic.

He explains: “What we do need to do is scrutinise some of these companies and say ‘What else are you doing behind the scenes?’.

He would ask if companies donate to LGBT charities or if the flags and displays are instead led by marketing teams wanting to “jump on a bandwagon”.

He says: “Visibility is great, but if it ends the day after the Pride parade comes past, we cannot condone that.”

LGBT sandwich

Some High Street chains say they do provide genuine support.

For example, Marks & Spencer sells an LGBT sandwich.

It says it worked with LGBT employees to create it and will be donating £10,000 to a national LGBT youth homelessness charity, akt (The Albert Kennedy Trust).

Last year Primark was criticised because its clothes were made in countries where homosexuality was illegal.

Now, it has a “Feeling Proud” range and is donating £150,000.

It says this will “help develop ways for LGBT communities to collectively advance equality worldwide”.

UGG is donating a quarter of the profits from limited edition rainbow slippers to LGBT media organisation, GLAAD.

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UGG

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UGG’s ‘Fluff Yeah’ limited Pride slippers

London brewery Beavertown has released a limited edition Pride pale ale with proceeds going to LGBT+ youth charity Just Like Us, who champion equality in schools and universities using a network of LGBT+ role models.

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Georgia Gallant / Beavertown Brewery

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Pride Gamma Ray pale ale can

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