Should businesses be giving to the Poppy Appeal?

In 1921, the first-ever two-minute silence and Poppy Appeal was held, selling out immediately and raising over £100,000 to provide veterans with employment and housing. The Royal British Legion has been raising money and providing support to veterans and their families ever since. But should businesses be giving to the Poppy Appeal? Business Leader takes a closer look.

Why do some people refuse to wear poppies or publicly support the Poppy Appeal?

The Royal British Legion (RBL) has said themselves that wearing a poppy is a personal choice, and for a long time, it was standard to see them everywhere you looked during remembrance. In recent years, more people are being spotted without a poppy symbol on display through November, but why?

There are many people, including some world war veterans, who now refuse to wear the poppy. They believe the symbol of the poppy has been tarnished by politics, viewing the symbol as a political statement to justify ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Famously, Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic refused to wear a poppy during a match whilst the rest of the team were wearing them. As a child, Matic experienced his Serbian village being bombed by NATO forces. He now views the poppy as a reminder of the trauma he experienced and doesn’t wish to parade that.

Wigan Athletic defender James McClean has also publicly spoken out about the reasons he refuses to wear a poppy on his shirt or in his private life. In an open letter to Wigan’s ex-chairman Dave Whelan, McClean said ‘‘If the Poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War I and II, I would wear one.’’

McClean goes on to say that for him, it symbolises all conflicts that occurred after the world wars. As an Irishman, he grew up with the aftermath of the Bloody Sunday massacre and for him, it would feel disrespectful to the innocent lives lost on that day.

Some news broadcasters including Jon Snow have previously spoken out about why they don’t wear poppies whilst on screen. Most tend to not wear one as they don’t want to be seen as making a statement or supporting certain charities above others.

What are the alternatives to the traditional red poppy?

The red poppy is considered the traditional symbol for remembrance of all soldiers who lost their lives during WWI, WWII and all following conflicts. However, many believe it doesn’t paint a true image of war and doesn’t line up with their personal beliefs for remembrance.

The white poppy

The white poppy was introduced in 1933 by the women’s Co-operative Guild as a lasting symbol of peace. It represents remembrance for all victims of the war. This includes all who were killed, physically and mentally wounded, sick, made homeless or directly affected by a conflict, along with all who were killed or imprisoned for refusing to fight.

The Peace Pledge Union are now responsible for distributing the white poppy, with an end goal of eliminating war.

Differing from the symbol of the red poppy, the white poppy remembers the civilians who lost their lives or have experienced suffering during any war or conflict.

The black poppy

Selena Carty launched the black poppy more recently in 2010. A black poppy is used in remembrance of black, African and Caribbean soldiers who fought and lost their lives during the wars.

The Black Poppy rose organisation are responsible for the distribution of the poppies. They have said they want the poppy to highlight ‘’largely untold historical legacies’’.

For many black communities, the red poppy has not openly shown representation for their families and ancestors who fought through the wars.

The purple poppy

In 2006, the charity Animal Aid launched the purple poppy initiative, to remember all the animals who tragically lost their lives during the wars. For many years, war animals were considered heroes, but Animal Aid wants them to be seen for what they truly were – victims of war.

Although Animal aid no longer choose to represent animals of war through a purple poppy, and instead they use an enamel purple paw pin, many still choose to wear a purple poppy in commemoration.

Who are some of the Poppy Appeal’s biggest partners?

Since 1921, the RBL has partnered with several big businesses that support the Poppy Appeal. Many of their partners work to create their own unique poppy collections and provide volunteer hours to fundraise.

Here are just some of the businesses that support the Poppy Appeal:


In 2009, the RBL and M&S began their partnership, and since then they’ve raised over £8.6 million for the charity. Each year they work to create and distribute unique poppy collections, donating all profits to the RBL.

Premier League

The premier league has been supporting the poppy appeal since 2012: the players wear special shirts that feature the traditional poppy. All match-worn poppy shirts are then auctioned off and the proceeds are donated to the RBL.

Coventry Building Society

Since the partnership began in 2008, the Coventry Building Society has raised a huge £18 million for the RBL. In 2012, they made the British Legion their official corporate charity, after seeing the difference their donations made.

Over their longstanding friendship, they’ve also put in over 4000 volunteer hours participating in various events and fundraising activities.

So, should businesses be supporting the Poppy Appeal?

The money raised for the RBL goes towards the running of residential homes, supporting veterans and their families, as well as funding recovery centres around the country. A percentage of donations go back into the charity to keep it going.

Donating to charities and organisations should be done with the purpose of giving back to a community, making a change or providing a service to those in need. Any kind of donation is morally good and provides an opportunity to give back to their community. Of course, being seen to partner with a large charity is good for reputation, but this should never be why a business donates.

You can actively donate to the Poppy Appeal without becoming a partner or going public about it. Whether you wear a poppy, regardless of the colour, should be up to the individual and their personal beliefs. Business owners should be donating to charities that are in line with their values.