A rainbow flag is flown at the annual LGBT York Pride parade.
Photo by Ian Forsyth—Getty Images
By John Kell
December 5, 2016

The nation’s largest food and beverage manufacturers—including PepsiCo, Kellogg and General Mills—are winning high marks for recognizing their LGBTQ work force and adopting inclusive policies for those employees. That was the finding of a new report by the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ civil rights advocacy group.

The report evaluated 1,043 companies based on whether they have inclusive benefits and protections that promote equality for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning) employees, and it found that large consumer product firms score particularly well. Of the 517 U.S. companies that earned 100-point scores, 72 were from the food, beverage and grocery sector.

PepsiCo (pep), Kellogg (k) and General Mills (gis) all scored 100, as did Coca-Cola (ko), McDonald’s (mcd), Walmart (wmt)and Tyson Foods (tsn).

Alcoholic beverage sellers also scored well, with 100-point scores awarded to Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Anheuser-Busch InBev (bud), and Brown-Forman (bf-b).

“From cereal staples to family restaurants, the companies behind the brands that feed America have demonstrated that their LGBTQ workers and families are a priority when it comes to ensuring equality across their policies and benefits,” said Deena Fidas, Director of the HRC Foundation’s Workplace Equality Program, in a statement.

Food makers like General Mills and Coca Cola were among some of the early leaders as it relates to embracing gay rights and because some of the larger companies in that sector led the charge, according to Deena Fidas, director of workplace equality programs at HRC. She said others followed suit quickly to stay competitive as it relates to attracting and retaining talent. LGBTQ shoppers are also highly aware of what brands support their community—and will loyally spend money to support corporations they view as allies.

More broadly, big corporations have proven to be a helpful ally in helping steer legislation that favors gay rights—while also being vocal when the government considers laws that are considered discriminatory. Big business was an active voice opposing anti-gay bills that have the surfaced in Arizona, Indiana, and North Carolina, to name a few notable examples.

In 28 states, it’s still legal to fire a person for being gay, and gay rights groups are worried about the incoming Trump administration. Donald Trump has said he’ll overturn all of President Obama’s executive orders, including one that bars anti-L.G.B.T. discrimination by federal contractors.

“Even in the face of relentless attempts to undermine equality, America’s leading companies and law firms remain steadfast and committed to supporting and defending the rights and dignity of LGBTQ people,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

The HRC report says that more than 90% of the rated businesses have embraced sexual orientation and gender identity employment protections for their U.S. and global operations. A majority of the businesses (86%) offer education and training programs that include definitions and/or scenarios on gender identity in the workplace, while almost 400 businesses have also adopted guidelines for gender transition.

The report said the total number of employers with a top rating for the 2017 index was the largest jump in top-rated businesses in a single year since in the 15-year history of tracking done by the HRC.

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