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Drawing on our diversity to drive values-based business decisions

Case study

In 2014, Diageo Guinness withdrew sponsorship of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City because the parade's discriminatory policy of banning openly LGBT-identified participation conflicted with our values.

The parade went ahead - but afterwards, the parade organisers announced they would allow one openly LGBT-identified group to march in the 2015 parade for the first time.

This represented progress - but not exactly an inclusive parade. Guinness had long been a sponsor of the event and the parade policy had never banned LGBT groups specifically in the past. The question then arose – how should Diageo Guinness respond?

The Diageo Guinness leadership team turned to the Rainbow Network, Diageo’s LGBT Employee Resource Group, for guidance. The partnership that resulted opened up dialogue internally and with our community partners to consider the best decision for our employees, our consumers and the business.

Diageo Guinness and the Rainbow Network decided to recognise the progress the parade organisers had made, and renewed our sponsorship. Just as important as the actual decision, though, was the dialogue - the Diageo Guinness leadership team was supported by LGBT employees in determining the best way forward, and the Rainbow Network members experienced being heard, respected and valued.

Co-Chairs of the Diageo Rainbow Network, Calvin Burwell and Jeanine Dooley, said: “For the first time in history, an openly LGBT-identified group will march this year. The change in parade policy is the result of many people working together for many years. A portion of the credit really should go, however, to Diageo for making a call last year that was as symbolically powerful as it was commercially difficult. Our corporate allies at GLAAD – the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation – have been with us along this journey, and their President, Sara Kate Ellis, believes Guinness’s visible action for equality made all the difference in motivating policies to change."

Jeanine and Calvin