Originally published on LinkedIn by Leonid Sudakov, President at Kinship
When I joined Mars in 2008, I was very aware it was a 100-year-old company operating across many cultures, with varying views on LGBTQ+ rights (and the fight for them). So I didn’t expect my new employer to be at the forefront of inclusion, let alone a progressive movement. But Mars was the place where I finally felt comfortable — with myself and with my company — to fully come out at work and embrace the role of helping others bring their full selves to work.
It was a long journey for me to get to this place, but what really won my heart was when Mars joined an amicus (friend of the court) brief, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Mars didn’t have to do it, but they took a public stand, insisting that its Associates must be embraced, accepted, and treated fairly regardless of who they love. We now know that seeing Mars on that brief, many other corporations joined. The Court saw that standing for marriage equality was not a fringe fight. That single action cemented my personal loyalty and willingness to help other people like me call Mars home. Mars believes that the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today — and for me, that was one example of walking the walk.
Today, as I reflect on Pride Month, it's difficult not to become suspicious of “rainbow washing.” It feels like every large corporate player jumped on the LGBTQ+ bandwagon and embraces diversity, with rainbow flags flying everywhere we look. But as we all know, that’s not entirely the reality — and certainly isn’t the case everywhere in the world. We must remember that Pride can’t just be an annual celebration of difference. It has to be a continuous call for action, an unrelenting fight for equity and inclusion. We must continue to recognize when “the other,” which is how members of the LGBTQ+ community are often portrayed, is readily demonized for political purposes. And we must continue to work to create inclusive spaces wherever we go, whether at work or in the world.
At Kinship, we always say a world that cares is a better world for all. We deliver on that idea by combining insights, products, and services to help people be the best pet parents they can be. But creating the world that cares better means uniting many changemakers to do what none of us can achieve alone. It means being open to all people and perspectives, a foundational pillar of Kinship’s culture. That’s why we adamantly support the LGBTQ+ community, contributing to Mars’ inclusion and diversity mission.
We believe that prejudice has no place at work, no purpose in society, and no justification in our shared human experience. And uniformity of form and spirit will only hold us humans back from advancing our collective knowledge.
To power our progress in Kinship, we rely on an intentional mix of different opinions and ways of thinking. We call it our creative rainbow and it’s what fuels innovation and allows us to bring to life ideas nobody else has. But diversity is messy. People often have an idealistic view of warm, fuzzy collaboration, when the reality can get uncomfortable at times. Diversity brings focus to the differences of opinion and spins up conflict. But it’s exactly that tension, that powerfully charged mix of minds, that brings forth the creative rainbow and leads to innovation. So companies wanting to cultivate their own creative rainbows need to be ready for the messiness, plan for it, and embrace it.
As the world’s leading pet care company, Mars is in the perfect space to support our fight for being open to all. Pets teach us unconditional love. They give love to anyone who loves them in return. In fact, one of the most-awarded ads of my entire career was a real story of two ex-convicts, to whom their pets’ unconditional love offered a ticket to the future. Simply put: Pets make us better humans by teaching us to care for something “other” than us. And they constantly remind us that a world that cares is a better world for all.