Famed model railway brand Hornby has admitted that it isn’t donating any proceeds from its new “Pride Van” to LGBT+ organisations.
The company attracted some criticism on Tuesday (1 June) when it unveiled its new van on Twitter to celebrate Pride Month. The queer-themed design features the colours of the rainbow flag along with the words “Pride” and “love is love”.
While some model railway fans were keen to get their hands on the Pride Van, others questioned whether proceeds would be donated to LGBT+ charities after the company said it would help to “support” the community.
On Wednesday (2 June), Hornby clarified its position, writing: “Please be advised we’re not donating any money at present but we’ll be keeping this in mind for the future.
“We wanted to show our commitment to the LGBTQ+ community with this model alongside our existing Pride models and hope that it’ll be a benefit and encourage awareness. Thank you.”
LGBT+ people have criticised Hornby’s attempt at ‘allyship’
The company has been heavily criticised by LGBT+ people on Twitter, with some suggesting that selling a Pride Van for profit isn’t allyship, it’s marketing.
Others criticised Hornby for failing to donate funds to LGBT+ charities when it donated £40,000 to the NHS in April 2020 after the company released a limited edition Captain Tom Moore and NHS Class 66 model.
Meanwhile, some people at least appreciated Hornby’s honesty in admitting that it won’t be donating funds to LGBT+ charities.
The organisers behind the Progress Train initiative, which sees trains emblazoned in the LGBT+ colours travelling across the UK, also weighed in, saying they had a call with representatives from Hornby in February where they discussed the idea of a Pride Van.
The Progress Train organisers said they “raised concerns about the lack of donation to an LGBTQ+ charity” during their February meeting.
“We were assured by Hornby that donations would be made to an LGBTQ+ charity from the sale of their Pride-themed items, moving forward,” they tweeted. “And then we saw this message with their Pride Month launch.”
The Progress Train Twitter account tweeted: “The LGBTQ+ community does not exist as a means for corporations to make a profit. If you really wish to ‘support the community’, the least you can do is donate to an appropriate charity.”
Andrew Smith, a member of the LGBT+ community, has published an open letter to Hornby expressing his disappointment with the company’s decision.
“Hornby believe, like other companies, that giving ‘visibility’ and ‘awareness’ of the LGBTQ+ community is enough, however companies that do not back up their support in a tangible and meaningful way see their words and actions become hollow.”
In his letter, Smith accused Hornby of “rainbow washing”, which he said occurs when big companies include LGBT+ identities in their product range solely for their own benefit.
“LGBTQ+ people do not wish to see their community being used solely for profit. We want to see innovation and actions that create real change to the communities that are being used within their products and marketing.”
In a statement released Thursday evening (3 June), Hornby apologised to the LGBT+ community and promised to donate funds to the community.
“Following the launch of the Hornby LGBTQ+ Pride Wagon on Tuesday we would like to say sorry!” the company said.
“We have got this wrong and deeply apologise – waving the flag is not enough. We must promote the LGBTQ+ community by donating the proceeds to the cause.
“So we now turn to you and ask where best within the community the proceeds should be donated. Again we apologise to everyone who was offended – this was of course never our intention and for that we are sorry.”
The company is appealing to the LGBT+ community to share their suggestions for where they should donate funds by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.