When call center agent Jimuel Arceo saw the rainbow flag used as part of the branding of SIP Purified Water (a bottled water company) during June 2019’s commercialized Metro Manila Pride, he said he actually “did feel great because… this company is celebrating with us.”
He was “excited because I once saw that bottle (with the rainbow used as backdrop of the brand’s logo) on an ad on Facebook,” so he “actually did look for that specific bottle since it’s limited edition and available only through select 7/11 stores.”
SIP has partnered with Metro Manila Pride even as early as 2017.
Arceo added that initially, and “to be honest”, the rainbow wasn’t a come-on for him since “I know its just a regular mineral water”. But then “when I saw that limited edition bottle design, I actually did make sure that I’ll have it, because I feel like if I had that specific bottle design I can flaunt my identity, and show my support for the LGBTQIA community.”
And this is exactly the sentiment rainbow-bearing companies – whether they actually support the LGBTQIA community or not in practicable terms, not just in marketing – are trying to elicit. A case of “Buy us, we support you.”
In an email interview, and when asked if SIP has actual pro-LGBTQIA efforts (not to do with marketing), Charles Lee, who helms (as president) the company, said to Outrage Magazine that “we mostly sponsor (LGBTQIA) related events. We are a start-up company so our budget isn’t as big, but we help in ways we can.”
Pressed on pro-LGBT policies (e.g. same-sex benefits) within the company, Lee said: “Internally, our core value includes equality, so we hire anyone regardless of sexual orientation, race or religion. We haven’t discussed yet what benefits to give as we are a start-up, but we can look into that in the future.”
Many companies that surface during Pride month are scrutinized – even criticized – for co-opting LGBTQIA Pride for profit.
On this, Lee said that “as a company we always believe that a progressive society begins with progressive people. We’re doing our part in whatever (way) we can to make the (LGBTQIA) community more visible to the public by featuring the Pride flag in our labels during Pride month. We also sponsor events throughout the year related to the LGBT community. We try to help as much as we can given our limited budget as a start-up.”
Lee similarly said that “if we have the capabilities and resources,” they would support: A) Pushing for anti-discrimination bill/law in the Philippines; B) Pushing for marriage equality in the Philippines; and C) Pushing for gender recognition law in the Philippines.
A related issue particular to SIP is the use of plastic, which may seem to go beyond SOGIESC but similarly affects LGBTQIA people as… humans. And the presence of SIP’s plastic bottles in past Pride parades/festivals was apparent.
“We are looking at ways on how to improve on this. For instance, in Spartan events, we provided a large water tank and customers can use paper cups or their own containers to fill water up. So we might adapt the same future Pride events,” Lee said, adding that “wWe are also looking at ways on how we can re-use plastic materials to convert them to bottles again. This is an ongoing project with our suppliers.”
In the end, for Lee, businesses can help promote the human rights of LGBTQIA people by: “Honestly, educating the public (in whatever format or media channel we can educate them). Educate them (about) the struggles of the (LGBTQIA) community and educating them (on) the importance of equality. It could be a challenge and there might be resistance, but our society is slowly progressing; we are seeing changes in comparison to the generation(s) before us. We have to keep up this momentum.”
For his part, Arceo agrees with educating the public on LGBTQIA issues.
He said that it may seem unfair that there are companies that “are taking part (of) celebrating Pride month, and it feels like a bandwagon thing, I just hope that if they celebrate with us queer, that they create some initiatives like… (educating) people on the importance of why we celebrate Pride month,” as well as “support some fundraising activities for LGBTQIA community since (they’re) using this celebration on their ad campaigns.” Of course, there’s the practical step of implementing pro-LGBTQIA policies within the company, too – e.g. “To stop job discrimination of our brother and sisters from the (LGBTQIA) community.”