Getting Rainbow Registered shows a company’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, says Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce

In B.C. and across the country, Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC) is waiving the first-year fee for the first 50 small businesses that sign up for its new Rainbow Registered certification program, which honours Pride Month this June.

Small businesses that apply in June can use the code RAINBOW100 to get assessed at no cost. For others, the sign-up fee will also be waived if they use the code RR PRIDE MONTH OFFER.

The Rainbow Registered program is the Toronto-based CGLCC’s newest national accreditation for Canadian LGBTQ+ friendly businesses and other organizations. Launched on June 3, 2021, it lets companies show their commitment to the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion through progressive policies and practices.

Leah McCormack, manager of tourism for the CGLCC, explains how the program came to be.

Over the past two years, CGLCC and Tourism HR Canada worked to create diversity and inclusion training modules that help companies in the hospitality industry to get market-ready for LGBT+ travellers.

“The final step,” McCormack says, “was developing the Rainbow Registered LGBT+ safe spaces accreditation program, which is open to any business of any size in any industry.” 

McCormack thinks that organizations in the tourism, business-to-consumer and customer services segment will see the most benefits, but the accreditation is open to anyone, not just LGBTQ+ owned businesses.

The CGLCC does the assessment process (starting at $299, plus tax, for small businesses), which covers four key areas: policies and practices, training, commitment to inclusive leadership and a culture of inclusivity. The participating business must provide evidence (through documentation or verbal confirmation) to a CGLCC assessor; if it passes, it will receive the accreditation within two weeks.

We’ll take your word for it

Small-business owners, or even one-person companies, needn’t worry if they don’t have textual documentation to prove their claims.

“If the small business can produce some verbal evidence,” McCormack says, then it’s good enough. “The assessors can tell just by talking to the owner if this is something brand-new, or if it’s something they’re committed to,” she adds.

The process is simple and hassle-free, according to McCormack. “Everything’s on our website,” she says. “No. 1 thing to do is to download the resource guide that comes on the site. The second most important part is that there is a self-assessment available.”

The self-assessment allows a company to see where they stand, what will be required of them and if they need additional help from the CGLCC to get to a certain standard. 

If a company doesn’t quite meet the criteria after the assessment, the CGLCC offers webinars, advice and training modules to fill the gaps before applying for reassessment.

The aim of the program is to push organizations to look inward, examining their business practices, find areas of unconscious bias and to work with the CGLCC to become more inclusive.

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But what’s in it for businesses?

McCormack says being Rainbow Registered will put businesses on the radar for customers or employees looking for companies committed to diversity and inclusion.

In the tourism industry, especially, LGBTQ+ travellers are a huge “untapped market,” she maintains.

Crestview Strategy’s LGBTQ2 Travel Study, commissioned by CGLCC and Tourism HR Canada estimates that the LGBTQ2 traveller market is worth $12 billion a year, with an average spend of $1,855 per trip.

Safety is a key concern, with 89 percent of the survey respondents saying they factor it into their trip planning. Nearly 60 percent consider it a “very important factor.”

CGLCC will also put rainbow registered companies in their directory of businesses and given them access to other organizational resources.

“We do a number of signature events every year,” McCormack says, “and they will be able to get tickets to that at a discounted rate. They’ll also have access to the resource toolkit on our website, which has 11 guides and 12 videos right now.” 

For some businesses, the rainbow badge is well worth the effort.

Natalie Wollenberg, who co-runs 555 Brewing Co. in Picton, Ontario, is one of the first companies to be Rainbow Registered. She says the decision made “business sense” because of how involved her brewery is in the community—particularly the LGBTQ+ one.

“We have always wanted to make sure that any of our customers feel like they can come here without any judgment and have a good time and just be themselves,” Wollenberg says. “And that’s why we did it.”

Besides making a business a visible space for customers, Wollenberg says, the assessment itself is illuminating and makes the owner examine different facets of their company.

“It gives you insight into how you’re seen and how you’re viewed in the community,” she explains. “And so I think sometimes it’s good to examine yourself and how you come across and how you affect other people.”

The entire assessment took about two hours and was “quite involved” but “well worth it,” Wollenberg says. “I think it’s a small effort on businesses’ part to be able to make that connection [with the LGBTQ+ community] and reach out.”

Asked if the price point was agreeable, Wollenberg laughs. 

“I’d pay double that.”