The worldwide boycott of Russian vodka by LGBT activists has had little appreciable effect on official Russian policy toward LGBT people, but according to AMERICAblog's John Aravosis, it appears to have had an effect on the parent company of Stolichnaya vodka, SPI Group.

A recent update of its "About" page includes a paragraph in which it claims to be "an equal opportunity employer" that doesn't discriminate "in employment or personnel practices on the basis of race, sex, age, sexual orientation, handicap, religion, national origin." While such a change in language is, as Aravosis writes, "laudable," it is unclear what corporate policies it actually reflects.

It fails to mention whether it offers same-sex partners the same benefits as their straight coworkers, for example, and offers no indication as to the protection it does or doesn't offer transgender employees. The Advocate's Daniel Reynolds quotes an open letter by SPI Group's CEO, Val Mendeleev, in which he claims that "[i]n the past decade, SPI has been actively advocating in favor of freedom, tolerance and openness in society, standing very passionately on the side of the LGBT community and will continue to support any effective initiative in that direction."

The newly disclosed nondiscrimination policy contains, as Aravois notes, no "definitive answers." It does, however, indicate the potential effectiveness of online boycotts. Prior to the July 22nd boycott, SPI Group thought it unnecessary to even address the issue of sexual orientation on its "About" page; now, it has done so and it has the opportunity to make a bold statement about the rights of transgender employees at a time and in a country when merely acknowledging the existence of any sexual minority could result in criminal action.

["Russian vodka" via AFP]