Endorsement of the LGBTQ movement by hiring diverse suppliers is a prominent theme in the most recent ESG report from Target, a reality which emerges as the brand faces backlash for controversial moves surrounding a recent “Pride Month” apparel collection.
Conservatives have launched a boycott effort against Target after the retail behemoth marketed a female swimsuit as “tuck-friendly” and with “extra crotch coverage,” as well as hired an artist who creates Satanic items to make various designs for the company. The company’s corporate sustainability report, which detailed the various efforts Target advances in order to ensure LGBTQ inclusion, boasted last year that the company sourced some 59% of items for “Pride Month” from “LGBTQIA+ creators and brands.” At least 51% of overall suppliers are “owned, controlled and operated by women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, veterans, or people with disabilities.”
“We build relationships with such suppliers through multiple national business groups, including the National Minority Supplier Development Council and National LGBT Chamber of Commerce,” Target continued in the report. “We also host onsite and virtual summits to introduce Target merchants and others to potential new, diverse partners.”
Target was also ranked fourth in a list of “Top Companies for LGBTQ Employees” by DiversityInc, a company which promotes workplace diversity with respect to race and sex.
Target indeed hired Erik Carnell, a self-identified transgender artist who runs the company Abprallen, to design three items for the “Pride Month” collection marketed by the retailer: a mini messenger bag with the slogan “We Belong Everywhere,” a tote bag with the phrase “Too Queer For Here,” and a sweatshirt emblazoned with “Cure Transphobia, Not Trans People.” The company later received massive backlash after a conservative activist revealed that the artist sells a number of items featuring the LGBTQ movement alongside imagery of Satan.
Other products featured on the artist’s website, which were not sold by Target, included a shirt with the phrase “Satan Respects Pronouns” and a design of a skeleton draped in rainbow colors that said “Trans Witches For Abortion.”
“Satanists don’t actually believe in Satan, he is merely used as a symbol of passion, pride, and liberty,” said the artist’s website, which now appears to be shuttered due to high demand. “He means to you what you need him to mean. So for me, Satan is hope, compassion, equality, and love. So, naturally, Satan respects pronouns. He loves all LGBT+ people.”
Target is one of countless prominent firms to endorse the environmental, social, and corporate governance movement, also known as ESG. Skeptics of the movement contend that the business philosophy emphasizes political and social causes, such as decreasing carbon emissions or diversifying company leadership, in a manner that distracts from profitability.
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“I can see the benefits for our shareholders. I know that focus on diversity, inclusion, and equity has fueled much of our growth over the last nine years,” Target chief executive Brian Cornell said in a podcast interview days before the controversy broke. “It’s adding value, it’s helping us drive sales, it’s building greater engagement with both our teams and our guests, and those are just the right things for our business today.”
Anheuser-Busch, the company which owns Bud Light and has effectively become a cautionary tale for firms which adhere to the ESG movement, likewise seeks to maintain robust corporate sustainability scores. Sales for Bud Light and other brands have plummeted in recent weeks after the company nodded toward self-described transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.