American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. (AEO) is proving that retailers can make a positive impact on the world with the right partnerships.
Since aligning with LGBTQ+ nonprofit It Gets Better Project in 2017, AEO and its American Eagle and Aerie brands together raised more than $3 million for the organization—$1.18 million of which came exclusively from their 2021 Pride partnership.
The organization, which has received the 2012 Governor’s Award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and garnered support from President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama, leverages the power of media to provide resources for LGBTQ+ youth at scale. AEO’s funding will allow the organization to launch two major projects this fall, including It Gets Better EDU, an education program initially featured within AEO’s 2019 Pride partnership, and a second project that taps young queer leaders across the U.S. to celebrate the community locally. More details on both projects will be available later this year.
This success shows AEO’s ongoing commitment to LGBTQ+ rights and directly challenges the widespread notion of “rainbow capitalism,” a term used to describe companies that cash in on Pride Month with products and marketing but do little to recognize LGBTQ+ people the remainder of the year. The term made its rounds on TikTok last month, when users slammed large corporations promoting Pride Month merchandise without offering any other forms of support for the community.
“AEO is a shining example of how corporations can uplift the LGBTQ+ community in consistently meaningful ways,” said Brian Wenke, executive director of the It Gets Better Project.
AEO is now the organization’s largest donor to-date. In 2019, it became the organization’s first Legacy Partner, signifying a contribution of $1 million or more.
“We are incredibly proud to continue our partnership with the It Gets Better Project to further empower and connect LGBTQ+ youth around the world,” said Jennifer Foyle, president, executive creative director, AE and Aerie. “Our ongoing support of the organization for the last five years represents a shared mission between our company and our AE and Aerie customers to uplift and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community while working to build a more inclusive world.”
AEO brands have a history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community with limited-edition apparel items and Pride March participation, and have expanded their efforts in recent years to champion diversity. Last year, it launched the AEO Real Change Scholarship for Social Justice, and selected 15 full- and part-time AEO, Inc. associates from underrepresented communities who are actively driving anti-racism, equality and social justice initiatives.