Social Justice

London Pride: Should 'pinkwashing' organisations such as BP, Shell and the Met Police be involved?

These organisations have a questionable record when it comes to the environment and human rights. Is there a right way for them to wave the rainbow flag?

London Pride is one of the biggest and longest-running LGBT celebrations in the country, one which corporations and institutions have increasingly sought to be a part of to boost their inclusive credentials and involve their staff. 

But who is welcome to march at Pride parades is increasingly up for debate. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has called for Pride in London to ban the government’s Home Office from the parade over the deportation of LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, and fossil fuel companies for exacerbating the climate crisis.

Just Stop Oil issued an ultimatum to London Pride organisers on the eve of the 2023 event. The group has called on organisers to condemn new oil, gas and coal, stop accepting sponsorship from high polluting companies, and ban their employees from marching alongside their float in the parade, or they will disrupt the event. 

“The climate crisis they are facilitating has already killed, and made homeless, millions of people including many LGBTQ+ people,” Just Stop Oil said in a statement. 

High polluting industries and the banks that fund them “now see Pride as a useful vehicle for sanitising their reputations, waving rainbow flags in one hand whilst accelerating social collapse with the other.”

So, with problematic companies and organisations being increasingly unwelcome at queer and LGBTQ events, is there a right way for them to fly the rainbow flag? 

Uniformed police were not allowed to join London’s Pride parade in 2022, due to Scotland Yard’s “homophobic” handling of the investigation into the serial killer Stephen Port, which Tatchell said showed “institutional homophobia is alive and kicking in the Metropolitan police”. Police were welcome as civilians. 

The Met Police told the Big Issue they are working with Pride in London, but did not confirm in what capacity, while parade organisers did not respond to requests for comment.

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Away from Pride parades, the British LGBT Awards recently cut ties with Shell and BP as supporters of the event after outcry from organisations accusing them of pinkwashing, and they’re not the only major organisations facing backlash from queer people.  

“Harmful companies have been latching onto our community via pinkwashing pride sponsorships for years now (well, since it has been profitable for them to do so) in an attempt to soften their image,” campaign groups Queer House Party and Fossil Free Pride told the Big Issue in a joint statement before the awards, following their campaign for the fossil fuel producers to be dropped. 

With their invite in the bin, BP said in a statement this was “disappointing for bp and our people”. The company was chosen by organisers due to being “proudly and visibly supportive of people of all diversities in all regions it works in,” but this, it seems, is not enough. 



Fossil Fuel Pride and Queer House Party staged a rally outside the awards ceremony, saying they will continue to protest  “until all harmful corporate sponsors have been dropped and there is an ongoing commitment to not allow them into our spaces again.” Amazon, Nestle and Macquarie Capital remain linked with the event, despite being criticised by among others, drag queen Cheddar Gorgeous for having “questionable track records on climate change, racism and inequality.”

“Most of our members feel that ideally we don’t want those institutions to exist at all,” Fossil Free Pride told the Big Issue, who said they were unable to comment on the actions of the Home Office or the police. 

But when it comes to oil and gas companies, Fossil Free Pride say they should immediately halt all work that harms the environment. “We know that LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to being more likely to have precarious employment and housing and less support. 

“By all means, let Shell and BP support their LGBTQ employees with internal initiatives, but if they really want to help LGBTQ people across the world then they would stop any new fossil fuel extraction and divert their capital to green energy. Currently just 1.5% of Shell’s spending goes towards renewable sources.” 

Asked what it would take for Shell and BP to be welcomed back as supporters of the British LGBT Awards, organisers said: “We always have been keen on unity and progress through education and understanding, therefore we are planning on holding a series of round tables with community leaders, Pride organisers, businesses and anyone who wishes to provide factual and rational discussion to find a positive way forward.”

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Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, an advocacy group promoting solidarity between LGBTQ people and refugees, said: “it is extremely harmful and upsetting when people of marginalised communities — whether they’re migrants or LGBTQ+ — have to watch institutions like the Met Police and the Home Office marching in the parade. 

“The Home Office have actively enacted violence and created hostile environments towards migrants. The choice to walk in the parade is a transparent, rainbow-washing attempt to hide from their hypocrisy.”

As “abolitionists”, the group is calling for a world without police, prisons and borders. So in answer to the question of how such organisations should celebrate Pride, the answer is that they shouldn’t exist in the first place. 

“50 years ago LGBTQ+ people taking over the streets of London didn’t seem possible and in another 50 years we know we’ll be dancing in the streets celebrating a world without police, prisons, detention centres and where everyone can feel safe,” they added. 

Queer House Party simply said “they shouldn’t.”

Stonewall and The LGBT Foundation were also approached for comment. 

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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