WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s largest advocacy group for LGBTQ+ rights has suspended its benchmark equality and inclusion assessment for Anheuser-Busch, citing the beer company’s handling of the hateful and transphobic backlash Partnering with transgender influencers Dylan Mulvaney last month.
The Human Rights Campaign told Bud Light’s maker that in May it published the company’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index — a tool designed to measure corporate policies, practices and performance related to the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer collaborators — has suspended 9, according to a letter shared with The Associated Press on Friday.
The suspension of Anheuser-Busch’s CEI assessment means that the company “no longer has the right to use the Best Places to Work award,” HRC said in the letter. Prior to the suspension, Anheuser-Busch had a CEI score of 100, the group’s highest rating.
“What we’re seeing here is an example of companies making the decision to adopt and build inclusive marketing, which is great – but a company should own those decisions,” Eric Bloem, Senior Director of Programs and Corporate Advocacy at HRC , said The Associated Press. “The Anheuser-Busch case is a textbook example of what not to do.”
On April 1, Mulvaney posted an Instagram video of herself cracking open a Bud Light as part of a promotional contest for the March beer brand.
A wave of criticism and hatred soon erupted around the video, particularly among conservative figures – Kid Rock released a video in which he shoots cases of Bud Light and calls on others to boycott the brand. In the weeks that followed, sales of the beer brand also increased easily fallen and two heads of marketing at Anheuser-Busch took vacation.
In an April 14 statement, Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth said the company “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. Our business is bringing people together over a beer.”
However, Anheuser-Busch’s actions and Whitworth’s testimony did not signal clear support for Mulvaney, nor did they directly address the transphobic rhetoric sustained during the backlash — raising concern among the LGBTQ+ community and activists. Meaningful solidarity is especially important at a time when dozens of anti-LGBTQ+ anti-LGBTQ+ bills are enacted across the country, Bloem added.
In an April 26 letter seen by the AP, HRC urged Anheuser-Busch to issue a public statement expressing support for Mulvaney and for transgender clients, shareholders and employees. The group also called on the company to have a “meaningful conversation” with LGBTQ+ employees about their concerns and recommended actions for leaders, and to conduct training on transgender inclusion in the workplace for leaders.
HRC said it received no response from Anheuser-Busch, the advocacy group said, prompting the May 9 letter notifying the company of the suspension of its CEI assessment. To date, Bloem said Friday, HRC has not heard from the company — but the organization’s goal is to work with the company and “discuss strategies to show and reaffirm support for the LGBTQ+ community.”
Anheuser-Busch said Friday that the company remains “committed to the programs and partnerships we have forged with organizations over decades to advance economic prosperity in a range of communities, including the LGBTQ+ community.” Bud-light maker, which belongs to Belgian brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, did not respond to HCR’s letters.
It took Mulvaney a couple of weeks before she publicly commented on the backlash — but posted a video to her Instagram page in late April, thanking supporters but not naming Bud Light in the post.
US TODAY first reported Thursday on the suspension of Anheuser-Busch’s CEI score.
AP business journalist Dee-Ann Durbin contributed to this report.