Major retailer Woolworths marked International Pride Month with a campaign in its stores. The campaign forms part of the Woolworths Inclusive Justice Initiative (or “IJI”), a natural evolution of the company’s Good Business Journey and commitment to care for the environment, people, and communities. The IJI sets out to acknowledge that certain groups in society are marginalised, and to help shape a world in which everyone feels they belong.

“We certainly see a world characterised by rising levels of inequality, discrimination and marginalisation,” said group chief executive officer Roy Bagattini. “And we believe that we have a responsibility to use the platform we have as a business to make a broader contribution to the world around us.”

The response to the campaign, which recognises that LGBTQIA+ people are a marginalised group and therefore more likely to face discrimination and violence, has largely been positive and supportive. However, there has also been a fair amount of negative response. Misinformation about the campaign has been rife and is being spread on social media platforms and via WhatsApp groups.

Misinformation about the campaign includes:

  • That the campaign included and targeted children, when in fact the campaign merchandise is exclusively adultwear, and kids are not featured in any of the displays or campaign material.
  • That Woolworths would be donating a portion of their June proceeds to support organisations, when in truth the donation is limited to proceeds from the specific Pride campaign merchandise range of only six items.
  • Images of undressed mannequins in suggestive poses are falsely being linked to the campaign.
  • And fake letters have been mischievously manufactured to look like Woolworths issued it – these are categorically fake and misleading.

This is not the first time the retailer has taken a positive stance on social justice, and it is unlikely to be their last. In fact, throughout the Group’s more than 90-year history, Woolworths has taken a stand on social issues.

Given its vision to be one of the world’s most responsible retailers, through its Inclusive Justice Initiative the company has chosen to take action on a number of matters relating to racism, women empowerment and gender equity, gender-based violence, diversity and inclusion, social and community development, fair and responsible pay, the development of small to medium businesses, and ethical and local sourcing. Upcoming campaigns will bring attention to other marginalised groups, including the plight of the poor, discouraged young South Africans on Youth Day, issues of women advancement during Women’s Month, and honouring 16 Days of Activism, to name a few.

“There is no question in my mind, that our value as a business and our values as a company, are inextricably linked,” said Bagattini. “Through this work we want to help build bridges between all the communities we serve and value. Our mission is to contribute to a world where everyone feels they belong, and to leave no one behind.”