Where do you shop?

by Rob Howard,
Associate Editor

Where to shop? Where to eat? There are several ways to get a quick read on a company’s LGBTQ friendliness. One of the best is the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Corporate Equality Index (CEI). The 2017 version, released in December, listed a record-breaking 517 businesses that earned the top score of 100, up from 407 the year before. 

That’s a 25 percent jump in one year, the largest in the index’s 15-year history. You can view the ratings online in several ways; scan through a PDF of the report, search for a company using the search function, or by using a great smart phone app that gives you a company’s rating and alternatives if you don’t think they meet your standards.

Many of us, when we go out for food or hit the mall or online stores for what our heart desires, like to know that where we spend our money treats their LGBTQ employees well. It’s also nice to know if they are involved in our community or hostile to it and whether we are welcome.

You may find surprises in the CEI’s list of companies scoring 100. Shopping for prescription drugs or other household items? Walgreens and CVS both are 100. So is Walmart.

That may be a surprise to most LGBTQ shoppers. The world’s largest retailer has, over the years, gotten a bad rep because the Walton family is well known to be conservative. But when it comes to treating their LGBTQ employees right, Walmart, including Sam’s Club, scores a 100. They don’t restrict their involvement to their employees. 

Just as an example, Walmart is the major corporate sponsor of NWA Equality, an LGBTQ organization that serves Northwest Arkansas. In addition, every Walmart store can give grants of $1,000 to community organizations. Many LGBTQ organizations across the country have been recipients.

If you are shopping for clothes, Sears (including on-line retailer Land’s End), Gap (which includes Old Navy), Nordstrom’s and Macy’s (which includes Bloomingdale’s and other brands) are all at the top.

Planning to update your home? Home Depot has a top rating, but Lowe’s ranks 40 and that rating is “unofficial” since the company has not responded to repeated requests to participate in the CEI survey.

Competing against Home Depot and Lowe’s in the appliance area, Best Buy scores 100. Sears is also a major appliance retailer. Best Buy is also a good pick for home entertainment and a host of electronics to amuse you.

If you are planning to travel, the airlines have long been leaders in taking care of their LGBTQ employees. American, Delta, JetBlue Airways, Alaska, Southwest, United and others all have scores of 100. Spirit had a rating of 15 in 2014, and doesn’t even appear on the list in 2017.

When you get where you are going it’s nice to know how your hotel rates. InterContinental Hotels Group, which includes Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and many others, scores 100. So do Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt and many more. Hotels are generally rated by their corporate chain; Ritz-Carlton, for instance, is part of Marriott.

And that’s where the Human Rights Campaign Foundation App comes in. Download it for free. All you do is type in a company name or brand, and it returns their score. If you don’t like their score, you can tap “Find Alternatives” and it will give you the names of different stores and their ratings.

The app will also return the name of the parent company, and their rating. Sometimes, you simply won’t find what you are looking for. There will be disappointments. Sometimes you’ll discover that your favorite store has low or no ratings.

Of course, where you spend your money is up to you. But it is nice to be informed about how your favorite store stacks up.

Copyright The Gayly - 1/1/2017 @ 7:46 a.m. CDT.