More than 500 companies had perfect scores on top advocacy group's LGBTQ+ index

Attendees hold large Pride flag at the 2023 LA Pride Parade on June 11, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Rodin Eckenroth | Getty Images

In a year stained by boycotts, protests and heightened consumer choice, hundreds of companies came through for LGBTQ+ equality, according to a leading advocacy group.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation awarded 545 companies with a perfect score on its annual Corporate Equality Index, which evaluates U.S. based companies that opt into the survey on their policies for LGBTQ+ equality. More than 800 of the 1,384 companies scored earned at least 90 of the possible 100 points.

When the index first began in 2002, only 13 companies earned the highest score.

“Companies are not backing down from diversity, equity inclusion, instead, they’re stepping up because they know that it’s good for their bottom line and good for their business,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said. “Employees are 4½-times more likely to want to work for companies that are standing with the LGBTQ+ community.

“We’re looking at a world right now where consumers are two times more likely to shop at a brand that stands with the LGBTQ+ community,” Robinson added.

Companies ranging from 3M to Coca-Cola to JPMorgan Chase to Salesforce earned the top score on the HRC’s index.

Companies were scored on four key pillars: non-discrimination policies across business entities, equitable benefits for LGBTQ+ employees and their families, supporting an inclusive culture, and corporate social responsibility.

This year, HRC expanded the index’s focus to also consider LBGTQ+ family formation rights, enhanced transgender-inclusive healthcare and gender transition guidelines.

Target and Anheuser-Busch — two companies at the center of high-profile protests this year related to LGBTQ+ rights — both submitted to scoring and received deductions from last year. Target scored a 95 this year, while Anheuser-Busch scored a 75. Both received a perfect 100 in 2022.

Over the summer, Target reported incidents of violence and threats to its employees over some of its Pride merchandise, leading the retailer to remove some items. CEO Brian Cornell said on a media call there was a material impact to sales and traffic at some stores during June, but trends normalized once the retailer made the changes.

“[Target] tried to make it seem as though there were two sides in this fight for equality,” Robinson said. “The lesson that we’ve learned this year, time and time again, is that there aren’t two sides to equality.”

Anheuser-Busch saw a sharp decline in sales of its popular Bud Light beer brand after right-wing backlash to a partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

“The lesson from this year is that when you confront a bully, they back down. So I also like to lift up examples like Nike that receives similar attacks,” Robinson said. “When they refuse to let up and give ground, those attacks diminish fairly quickly and they also saw their consumer stand with them.”

Employee benefits

Social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, received a score of negative 25 on the HRC Corporate Equality Index “because of their extremely bad practices,” Robinson said.

“[Twitter] was fortunately a company that we partnered with to get on the right side of this and to really improve their workplace culture, but unfortunately under Elon Musk’s leadership, those policies had been rolled back. It’s just not the same company,” Robinson said.

While expanding or adding to employee benefits is not without a financial cost to a company, “most employers report an overall increase of less than 3.5% in total benefits cost when they implement partner benefits and marginal increases related to transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage,” according to this year’s report.

Robinson said offering equitable policies in the workplace is also “futureproofing” for businesses.

“If we look at the future, we can see that by 2040, the percentage of LGBTQ plus Americans will double in this country. This again is not just the right thing to do. It’s the best thing to do for your business.”

The 2023 survey results come against a background of heightened tensions for the LGBTQ+ community. The HRC foundation in June declared a “state of emergency” for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. for the first time in its history.

“In 2023 LGBTQ+ people faced an unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults in state houses all over the country” the report states. “More than 605 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in 41 states and over 220 of those bills explicitly targeted the transgender community, particularly trans and nonbinary youth.”

“We have raised the bar, especially, for what it looks like to have trans inclusion in the workplace in the midst of so many attacks across the country,” Robinson said.

— CNBC’s Cait Freda contributed to this report.

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