The CEI: Why Brands Risk Going Broke To Look Woke
If you’re anything like me, you may have been utterly baffled by recent events in marketing. Companies like Gillette, Disney, Nike, Tampax, and Bud Light seem to have completely abandoned their core customer base and pandered to an entirely different demographic – one that’s unlikely to even need or want their products in the first place.
(Trust me when I tell you this is really important content. Let’s see if I can write this article in a way that won’t get me slapped with another round of defunding and deplatforming.)
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Move over, ESG scores. Now big corporations are competing for super-high CEI scores. And to do it, many of them have to completely turn their backs on the loyal consumers who’ve been buying their products for years.
What is a CEI score?
Brought to us by a group of control-freaks-pretending-to-be-do-gooders who call themselves The Human Rights Campaign, CEI stands for Corporate Equality Index.
A quick note about the HRC: it IS, in fact, funded by George Soros’s Open Society Foundation as well as Disney. Not a conspiracy theory. You can see here where they thanked both companies for their support. And by “support,” I’m pretty sure they don’t mean that those folks getting a shout-out said, “Way to go! You’re doing great, sweetie!”
A company can receive up to 100 points in the CEI rating system. Here’s how those points are earned.
1. Workforce Protections (5 points possible)
- Policy includes sexual orientation and gender identity/gender identity or expression for all operations (5)
2. Inclusive Benefits (50 points possible)
To secure full credit for benefits criteria, each benefit must be available to all benefits-eligible U.S. employees. In areas where more than one health insurance plan is available, at least one inclusive plan must be available.
- Equivalency in same- and different-sex spousal medical and soft benefits (No points awarded)
- Equivalency in same- and different-sex domestic partner medical and soft benefits (10)
- Equivalency in spousal and domestic partner family formation benefits regardless of sex. (10)
- Equal health coverage for transgender individuals without exclusion for medically necessary care (25)
- LGBTQ+ Benefits Guide (5)
3. Supporting an Inclusive Culture (25 points possible)
a. Four LGBTQ+ Internal Training and Accountability Efforts (5)
Businesses must demonstrate a firm-wide, sustained and accountable commitment to diversity and cultural competency, including at least four of the following elements:
- New hire training clearly states that the nondiscrimination policy includes gender identity and sexual orientation and provides definitions or scenarios illustrating the policy for each
- Supervisors undergo training that includes gender identity and sexual orientation as discrete topics (may be part of a broader training), and provides definitions or scenarios illustrating the policy for each
- Integration of gender identity and sexual orientation in professional development, skills-based or other leadership training that includes elements of diversity and/or cultural competency
- Integration of intersectionality in professional development, skills-based, or other training (required)
- Senior management/executive performance measures include LGBTQ diversity metrics
b. One LGBTQ+ Data Collection Effort (5)
- Anonymous employee engagement or climate surveys conducted on an annual or biennial basis allow employees the option to identify as LGBTQ+
- Data collection forms that include employee race, ethnicity, gender, military and disability status — typically recorded as part of employee records — include optional questions on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Board (or other governing body) member demographic data collection include the option for individuals to report their sexual orientation and gender identity or self-identity as LGBTQ+
c. Transgender Inclusion Best Practices (5)
- Gender transition guidelines with supportive restroom, dress code and documentation guidance
- Implementation of the at least one (1) of the following policies or practices
- Trans-inclusive restroom/facilities policy
- Gender-neutral dress code
- Policies/procedures that allow for optional sharing of gender pronouns
d. Employee Group –OR– Diversity Council (10)
4. Corporate Social Responsibility (20 points possible)
a. Five Distinct Efforts of Outreach or Engagement to Broader LGBTQ+ Community (15)
Businesses must demonstrate ongoing LGBTQ+ specific engagement that extends across the firm, including at least five of the following:
- LGBTQ employee recruitment efforts with demonstrated reach of LGBTQ+ applicants (required documentation may include a short summary of the event or an estimation of the number of candidates reached)
- Supplier diversity program with demonstrated effort to include certified LGBTQ+ suppliers
- Marketing or advertising to LGBTQ consumers (e.g.: advertising with LGBTQ+ content, advertising in LGBTQ media or sponsoring LGBTQ organizations and events)
- Philanthropic support of at least one LGBTQ+ organization or event (e.g.: financial, in kind or pro bono support)
- Demonstrated public support for LGBTQ+ equality under the law through local, state or federal legislation or initiatives
b. LGBTQ+ Corporate Social Responsibility
Contractor/supplier non-discrimination standards AND Philanthropic Giving Guidelines (5)
4. Responsible citizenship (-25)
Employers will have 25 points deducted from their score for a large-scale official or public anti-LGBTQ blemish on their recent records. Scores on this criterion are based on information that has come to HRC’s attention related to topics including but not limited to: undue influence by a significant shareholder calculated to undermine a business’s employment policies or practices related to its LGBTQ employees; directing corporate charitable contributions to organizations whose primary mission includes advocacy against LGBTQ equality; opposing shareholder resolutions reasonably aimed at encouraging the adoption of inclusive workplace policies; revoking inclusive LGBTQ policies or practices; or engaging in proven practices that are contrary to the business’s written LGBTQ employment policies.
Now, let me be clear about my own opinions here before I go further. I’m not a conservative. I’m really rather ambivalent about people’s identities and orientations as long as it’s an issue for consenting adults. I know this differs from many in my audience, and I also support the rights of people to not engage in things that are an affront to their own religious or personal doctrines. That’s the beauty of America. (Well, it was, anyway.)
However, the above FORCES “public support” of something a person might not support at all. And I am NOT okay with that.
Whatever happened to the simple philosophy of “if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all?” That was not abusive. It was a way to gracefully take a step back without being hurtful or forcing your own opinions on others.
However, now it could lead to corporate ruin.
How are companies affected by CEI scores?
You may be wondering why companies would participate in such nonsense (which podcaster James Lindsay of New Discourses likened to “an extortion racket, like the Mafia.”)
If businesses receive 100 points, they get the title of “Best Place To Work For LGBTQ Equality.” Fifteen of the top twenty ranked Fortune 500 companies received that perfect rating in 2022, including Walmart, Amazon, Apple, and more. You can find the scores here.
842 businesses in all have received that sought-after 100% rating.
According to a report on the NY Post website, the HRC actively enforces the CEI gospel with new demands.
It doesn’t just sit back passively either. HRC 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.”
Okay, it’s just a score. What’s the big deal? What does it all mean?
So why do corporations comply?
First of all, money.
The CEI is a lesser-known part of the burgeoning ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance) “ethical investing” movement increasingly pushed by the country’s top three investment firms. ESG funds invest in companies that oppose fossil fuels, push for unionization, and stress racial and gender equity over merit in hiring and board selection.
As a result, some American CEOs are more concerned about pleasing BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street Bank — who are among the top shareholders of most American publicly-traded corporations (including Nike, Anheuser-Busch and Kate Spade) — than they are about irritating conservatives, numerous sources told The Post.
So investor money is more important than consumer money.
But that’s not all. Companies that don’t comply could lose everything.
“The big fund managers like BlackRock all embrace this ESG orthodoxy in how they apply pressure to top corporate management teams and boards and they determine, in many cases, executive compensation and bonuses and who gets re-elected or re-appointed to boards,” entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who is running for president as a Republican and authored “Woke Inc.: Inside America’s Social Justice Scam,” told The Post. “They can make it very difficult for you if you don’t abide by their agendas.”
In 2018, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, who oversees assets worth $8.6 trillion and has been called the “face of ESG,” wrote a now-infamous letter to CEOs titled “A Sense of Purpose” that pushed a “new model of governance” in line with ESG values.
“Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose,” Fink wrote. “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”
Fink also let it be known “that if a company doesn’t engage with the community and have a sense of purpose “it will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders.”
It’s not just about, “Go woke, go broke.” It’s about, “Don’t go woke, go under.”
The message is clear that if you don’t comply, you will be destroyed.
Proponents say this makes the world better. Opponents disagree.
I have no doubt that some people involved in this believe in it with all their hearts. They want to make things better, kinder, and gentler for people they feel are being discriminated against, and compassion is not a bad thing. After all, I’ve been an idealistic 20-something myself, once believing that we could mandate the world into being a better place.
My issue is not with those genuine albeit misguided souls.
My problem is with the people who know this is not about everyone singing Kumbayah. My problem is with those who are trying to push a progressive agenda on America. One that ends up with us all wearing equally ugly uniforms in our Soviet-style block apartments while we eat government-distributed cricket burgers and try to stay warm with sparse, commie heat.
Derek Kreifels, the co-founder and CEO of State Financial Officers Foundation, believes that these mandates are detrimental to stockholders.
He calls ESG itself a “highly subjective political score infiltrating all walks of life, forcing progressive policies on everyday Americans [and] resulting in higher prices at the pump and at the store.”
The Corporate Equality Index is an ominous cog in ESG’s wheel, Kreifels told The Post.
“The problem with measures like CEI, and its big brother ESG, is that it introduces an incentive structure outside of the bounds of business, often in ways contradictory to fiduciary duty.”
This will backfire.
I’m not advocating cruelty or discrimination. I’m not suggesting anyone go out and deliberately try to prevent people with whom you disagree from being treated fairly and reasonably in the workplace. I’m just saying that this is no way to get ahead in the world. If a group wants acceptance, then that group needs to stop asking for special treatment. Be hardworking. Be good at your job. Be a team player. That’s how you get treated well at work.
I see no way in the world that this won’t backfire. First of all, when you begin shoving something down the throat of stubborn, free-thinking people, we tend to dig our heels in even harder than before. People who were against the thing in the first place are even more against it, and they feel threatened now. People who were previously ambivalent say, ” Hey, screw that!” They feel like their right to be ambivalent is threatened. And people who are all for it push even harder, setting themselves up for a rebound later on that will not be pleasant.
This is not some kind of threat of retaliation. This is basic human psychology. Hearts and minds are not won over by force. They’re won over by being given a choice. And when forced, the pendulum always swings back, and the harder it was forced, the harder the swing back.
Stockholders will lose money.
Prices will go up.
People will get even angrier.
Division and animosity will continue to increase.
These policy pushers know this, they have to know. While they may be misguided or even evil, it doesn’t mean they’re stupid. They simply don’t care whether the rest of us like it or not, and they currently have the money and the power to enforce their agendas. Never think this is about doing good. It’s not about supporting marginalized groups of people. It’s about tearing down our identities, both societal and personal. Broken people are far easier to control.
It’s never been about anything but control.
That national divorce folks are talking about is really starting to look like the only rational, peaceful solution.
What are your thoughts?
What do you think about the CEI scores? Does this clarify why these ridiculous ads keep appearing, much to the outrage of customers? Does it make you think twice about what companies you purchase from? Do you have any thoughts about how we can stop this? Or, conversely, do you think it’s a great idea?
Article posted with permission from Daisy Luther