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UK LGBT Awards urged to drop headline sponsor over ‘blatant pinkwashing’

Tonight’s awards show has come under fire, with sponsor Macquarie Group accused of ‘profiting from climate crisis’

Vic Parsons
Vic Parsons
24 June 2022, 10.59am

Extinction Rebellion activists outside the offices of the Macquarie Group, London in protest against the Silvertown Tunnel

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Vuk Valcic / Alamy Stock Photo

More than 40 community groups are demanding a major British LGBT awards show drop one of its headline sponsors over “blatant pinkwashing”, openDemocracy can reveal.

LGBTIQ groups are among those urging the LGBT Awards to drop the Macquarie Group over the company’s funding of fossil-fuel projects, which they claim are contributing to the climate crisis and harming Indigenous communities worldwide.

The awards show will be held tonight (24 June), with a mission to celebrate individuals and organisations “with outstanding commitment to the LGBT+ community”.

Bimini Bon Boulash, Alan Carr and Jade Thirlwall are among this year’s nominees, with Tom Daley, Daniel Radcliffe and Prince William among the former winners.

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Sam Bjorn, of Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM), told openDemocracy that Macquarie’s sponsorship of the British LGBT Awards is a “blatant attempt at pinkwashing” because “all over the world, Macquarie Capital is profiting from the climate crisis”.

LGSM is among 42 community-led groups that have written an open letter to SPM Group, which owns the British LGBT Awards.

The letter says that while they “believe that the British LGBT awards can be a powerful force for LGBT+ liberation… accepting sponsorship from Macquarie Capital contradicts your aims, as they are involved in projects that will harm many marginalised people, including LGBT people”.

On 30 May, the open letter was sent to Sarah Garrett MBE, founder of the British LGBT Awards and CEO of SPM Group, but did not receive a response.

On the British LGBT Awards website, Garret says she has “observed various initiatives and awards ceremonies that have not had the best interests of the communities they serve at their core” and that it is important to her personally that “our brand has integrity and credibility”.

The open letter was signed by groups including Black Lives Matter, Queer House Party, Jewish Solidarity Action, Greenpeace and Labour for a Green New Deal.

It goes on to state that Macquarie is part of the Riverlinx Consortium that is building a new “highly pollutant” four-lane road tunnel under the River Thames between Greenwich and Newham, where it will direct increased traffic through residential areas and past several schools.

We cannot let Macquarie wrap themselves in the Pride flag to hide from the consequences of their actions

Nate Higgins, the Green Party councillor for Newham, told openDemocracy that activists have been “sounding the alarm bell” about Macquarie “for years now”.

“[Macquarie is] making a conscious decision to put financial gain over the lives of those harmed by the climate-wrecking projects they fund,” Higgins, who is gay, said. “We cannot let Macquarie wrap themselves in the Pride flag to hide from the consequences of their actions – they must be dropped from the awards immediately.”

Higgins added that the Silvertown Tunnel is “a project from a bygone era being foisted upon communities that haven't asked for it, don't want it, and who will face incredible and irreparable harm if it is built”.

“More road crossings will simply induce further demand and cause yet more congestion and traffic across Newham and Greenwich, spreading misery to those who live in the area, and causing severe health consequences.”

Healthcare workers, teachers and parents are among those opposing the Silvertown Tunnel project.

Kevin White, a Black parent who left Newham because of the dangerous air pollution, told openDemocracy that he still stands “shoulder to shoulder with my old community in their fight for clean air”.

“I see [Macquarie’s] use of the British LGBT Awards as little more than a cynical attempt to spray air freshener on their rotten practices,” White added.

The British LGBT Awards has come under fire for its choice of sponsors before, with writer Jason Okundaye rejecting his nomination this year due to “profound personal and political disagreement” with sponsors MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

Okundaye later tweeted saying he had learned that all three had been “dropped as sponsors” and said he had asked for this to be confirmed in an official statement. He said: “I didn’t receive a response and so my nomination will remain withdrawn.”

Neither MI5, MI6, nor GCHQ is listed under the ‘sponsors’ section of the awards’ website.

In 2021, musician and author Chardine Taylor Stone formally handed back her award for Outstanding Contribution to LGBT+ Life, which she won in 2017.

She said at the time: “We will never be truly free as long as corporations and especially secret intelligence services continue to use us to ‘pinkwash’ their activities.”

Macquarie declined to comment for this article.

The British LGBT Awards said that Macquarie was aligned with its values and topped Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers list this year, declining to comment further.

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