he revolution will be on-brand, it seems. In addition to the academic and nonprofit partners of the March for Science, the event has recently been backed by a number of companies eager to align with its pro-environment, pro-science message. These partners — including biotech companies, a salon chain, and a local soap producer — are providing fundraising help and brand endorsement for the event, which in its meteoric rise has struggled with internal divisions and a series of public gaffes.
One of the biggest brands to embrace the April 22 event is salon and hair products company Aveda. The company, a subsidiary of cosmetics giant Estée Lauder, is not a formal partner but “have independently been vocal supporters of the March,” according to Julia MacFall, the fundraising coordinator for the March for Science. A recent post on the company’s blog included a quote from a march co-chair and encouraged its customers to donate to the event — either directly, or by using their Aveda loyalty points.
Dave Rapaport, Aveda’s vice president of earth and community care, said that associating with the march was “an authentic expression of our values.”
“Every formula we create, every ingredient we select is chosen based on a scientific decision that has determined that it is the most appropriate formula or ingredient,” he said in an emailed statement.
Other forms of corporate endorsement have benefitted the various satellite marches across the US and globally. Companies that have joined in to help fundraise for local marches include a brewery in Chicago and a soapmaker near Boston. Some companies, like Cambridge, Mass.-based drug development firm Warp Drive Bio, have formally sponsored their local satellite marches. (The satellite events don’t receive funding from the organizers hosting the march in Washington.)
More expected corporate supporters — biotech and life sciences companies — have also gotten on board. Alnylam and its CEO, John Maraganore, have come out in support of the march, as has Jeff Albers, Blueprint Medicine’s CEO, and Sobi North America president Rami Levin. All of the companies cited science’s role in helping patient populations affected by diseases for which they produce pharmaceuticals as reasons why they were supporting the march.
The event aligns with activism that, in many cases, the companies are already engaging in. Executives from all three companies were among the 166 biotech leaders who signed an open letter criticizing Trump’s immigration order published on a Nature Biotechnology blog in February. Blueprint continues to participate in the #ActualLivingScientist campaign on Twitter, intended to raise public awareness about scientists after a survey showed most Americans could not name a single living scientist.
For both companies and activists, corporate endorsements can be a fraught endeavor — risking, on the one hand, diluting a movement’s message, and on the other, politicizing a brand. Aveda’s Rapaport expressed no hesitation about the march’s explicit political (though nonpartisan) goals. “Participating was an easy decision for us because it just makes sense with who we are and what we stand for,” he said.
March organizers have put together a pledge for participants that highlights the event’s intended peaceful nature and refrains from using specific partisan labels. However, recent social media posts indicate that the march may still be grappling with getting its political tone right. The main march’s Twitter account deleted tweets last week, in response to the recent strike in Afghanistan, that referred to the role of science in developing bombs. Organizers apologized for the posts’ partisan nature.
However, the risk to brands endorsing the march is still very low, said David Hessekiel, president of social marketing organization Engage for Good.
“I think that there is a tremendous body of companies whose existence is based upon science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” Hessekiel said. “And so, within that world and within their customer base, I don’t think there’s going to be a huge controversy about them saying that science is core to their business.”