There’s this nice video message in the elevators at work, about the Pride Parade. And it’s making me uneasy.

Pride parade Telus marketing

I took a picture of the message and it’s a fine thing; gives me a warm glow. Especially since there’s going to be a big Amazon contingent in Vancouver’s parade, which is a powerful, uplifting occasion.

I have some history here: back in the Seventies, I was on the college’s student-paper staff and we sponsored and hyped up the first ever Gay Dance. Pretty radical at the time; you can’t imagine the freakout among the Engineering jocks and Aggies. Three decades later, I have the coolest-ever rainbow-flag sticker over the glowy apple on my Mac. Homophobia in all its flavors seems mostly on the run. [Disclosure: I’m a white cishet male playing at the lowest difficulty setting.]

Now, the “TELUS” in that Pride blurb is a huge Canadian telecom. Did I mention I was uneasy? To start with, I’m profoundly unused to finding myself aligned with a telephone company.

The obvious next step would be corporates funding shelter for the army of homeless on Vancouver’s streets, including the street right outside Telus’ building, where there’s someone sleeping on cardboard on pavement every morning. Then taking positive action on the hundred thousand working people living in poverty in Vancouver, sending kids to school hungry. And speaking of poor kids, can we expect to see corporate leadership on addressing the problems behind the fact that half of them are aboriginal?

It shouldn’t be a problem that homeless people and hungry aboriginal kids don’t have a parade to march in, one you can send your employees off to and get a diversity badge for the price of a few banners; and the employees don’t even have to take a day off work!

Pride? I’m 100% supportive, and homophobia’s still there to be combated. But I’m actually not holding my breath waiting for corporate leadership on that other stuff.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Gavin B. (Jul 14 2016, at 00:40)

cishet - not normal man!

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From: Michael Nixon (Jul 14 2016, at 09:33)

Hey Tim,

I totally agree that we should be skeptical of corporations and their claims to support causes. They're definitely often for show and publicity, so we should be critical and hold them to demonstrate their actual support for a broad range of public initiatives.

That being said, since I'm married to a Telus employee, I happen to know that they are one corporation that puts their money where their mouth is more often than not. Their "Day of Giving" has incorporated community involvement at a deeper level than I see from a lot of corporations (see https://sustainability.telus.com/en/community-investment/celebrating-a-decade-of-giving/ for their list of areas they've contributed to), and match donations made by employees.

Promotions such as their involvement in Pride seem to be led by employees in authentic ways, and as far as I can tell there's a lot of support for individuals who want to support various charitable causes, including meals and shelter for homeless people. At the same time, their president Darren Entwhistle is widely seen as providing strong leadership on this front given his personal donations and involvement in intiatives.

I normally hate to be that guy coming to the defense of corporations... obviously there are taxable benefits and PR benefits involved here that factor in, but since I have seen behind the curtain, and volunteered more often than I have in the past through Telus' day of giving, I believe there's more a superficial commitment to the lower mainland and the various causes they attach their name to, and I see good practices that other companies could do more of.

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July 13, 2016
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