AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
Amid the ongoing backlash against Bud Light over the brand’s partnership with controversial TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney, many Americans are asking why some of the world’s largest companies are committing acts of seeming self-sabotage in order to align with radical left-wing social politics. While there are undoubtedly a multitude of factors driving this phenomenon, one major reason for corporate America’s descent into wokeism – like Bud Light’s Mulvaney partnership – is the “Corporate Equality Index” (CEI), a sort of “woke report card” published by the far-left Human Rights Campaign that goes hand-in-hand with so-called “environmental, social, and governance,” or ESG investing and can earn companies lucrative financial commitments from woke investment banks.
The Human Rights Campaign has long been one of the most powerful LGBTQ lobbying groups in the world, and enjoys millions of dollars in funding from liberal mega-donors like George Soros. The organization’s Corporate Equality Index, which debuted in 2002, is billed as “the premier survey benchmarking tool on how corporations across the United States and beyond are adopting equitable workplace policies, practices and benefits for LGBTQ+ employees.”
The most recent edition of the CEI report boasts that “a record-breaking 842 businesses met all the criteria to earn a 100 percent rating and the designation of being a 2022 ‘Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality,’” compared to just 13 companies that earned such distinction twenty years ago. Fifteen of the top Fortune 20 companies received perfect scores last year.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, companies earn better CEI scores by taking “concrete and dedicated steps to establish and implement comprehensive policies, benefits, and practices that ensure greater equity for LGBTQ+ workers and their families.”
In practice, this means relentlessly pushing the latest ideological fad on the cultural left, from “gender affirming care” to child drag shows.
Bud Light’s partnership with Mulvaney is exactly the sort of activity that could earn the company a higher CEI score – which in part explains why Mulvaney has enjoyed lucrative deals with other brands as well, including Nike’s women’s clothing line, women’s fashion company Kate Spade, and Ulta Beauty.
Many brands have also gone to great lengths – including alienating their customers – in order to win the approval of the CEI graders. According to the New York Post, companies can earn up to 50 points by covering the cost of gender reassignment surgery for employees. “Marketing or advertising to LGBTQ consumers,” like Bud Light’s Mulvaney partnership, is worth 20 points.
Meanwhile, a company can lose CEI points if it does not meet the Human Rights Campaign’s standard for “integration of intersectionality in professional development, skills-based or other training” or if it doesn’t use a “supplier diversity program with demonstrated effort to include certified LGBTQ+ suppliers.”
Political podcaster James Lindsay has compared the CEI to a Mafia-style extortion racket, revealing that the Human Rights Campaign “sends representatives to corporations every year telling them what kind of stuff they have to make visible at the company. They give them a list of demands and if they don’t follow through there’s a threat that you won’t keep your CEI score.”
This woke racket is enforced in large part by major investment banks like BlackRock and Vanguard, who have made a commitment to ESG investing that is based in part on companies’ CEI ratings. A high CEI score means that a company is more likely to earn investment dollars from BlackRock or other investment banks. A low CEI score, meanwhile, means that the BlackRocks of the world will starve that company of funding in accordance with ESG dogma.
But as companies descend even further into the woke morass, consumers are increasingly deciding they’ve had enough. In addition to Bud Light, many Americans are boycotting Disney, which has for years openly injected wokeness into its children’s programming. Two major Disney films marketed heavily with LGBTQ+ characters were box office bombs, costing the studio almost half a billion dollars combined. The company’s streaming platform also lost almost 2.5 million subscribers in the final months of 2022.
Meanwhile, brands that have promised to reject wokeism have seen record growth. Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire, which has pledged a $100 million investment in politically neutral children’s programming, recently crossed 1 million subscribers. A new beer called “Ultra-Right,” which pledges to be “woke free,” has also had record sales since the Bud Light controversy began.
Major corporations thus find themselves staring down a crisis of their own making. If they continue to embrace wokeism, they risk alienating large swaths of their customers and drastically impacting their bottom line. But if they refuse to toe the progressive party line, they risk angering liberal interest groups like the Human Rights Campaign and their woke investor overlords – whom they themselves empowered in the first place.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.
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