From almost no guaranteed rights at the turn of the century to laws that ensure marriage equality and hate crime protections, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community has made great strides and vastly changed the American landscape. And, US companies are addressing equality head on with policies and programs that prevent discrimination.

Food, beverage and grocery companies continue to set the pace for corporate LGBT inclusion, according to the 2016 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), released November 24 by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization. The annual report rates companies based on whether they have inclusive benefits and protections that support workplace equality for LGBT employees.

A record-breaking 407 companies nationwide earned 100-point scores in the 2016 CEI; 24 of these are from the food, beverage and grocery sector. One new sector participant this year, WhiteWave Foods Co. of Denver, CO, entered with a perfect score of 100. WhiteWave Foods joins Brown-Forman Corp. and Diageo North America, long-time 100 percent-rated companies. Other top-scoring food and beverage companies are: Aramark Corp., Barilla America Inc., Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc., Campbell Soup Co., Cargill Inc., Coca-Cola Co., ConAgra Foods Inc., Darden Restaurants Inc., Delhaize America Inc., E&J Gallo Winery, General Mills Inc., Hershey Co., Hormel Foods Corp., Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods Group Inc., Land O’Lakes Inc., McDonald’s Corp., MillerCoors LLC, Mondelez International Inc., PepsiCo Inc. and Sodexo Inc.

The CEI rates companies on detailed criteria falling into five broad categories: nondiscrimination policies; employment benefits; demonstrated organizational competency and accountability around LGBT diversity and inclusion; public commitment to LGBT equality; and responsible citizenship.

This year’s survey marked the first time a global nondiscrimination policy or code of conduct that specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was required to ensure top marks.

However, HRC admits there is still more work that needs to be done. Griffin notes that while barriers all over the US have been lifted, “the lack of consistent federal protections in employment, housing, credit, public services and other essential aspects of American life remain critical barriers to full equality for the LGBT community.”

The report is available online at