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| 3 minutes read

Large Corporations are not moral creatures... it’s a hard lesson to learn.

Jonathan Pie, the satirical news presenter who's schtick is that the modern woke world aggravates him so much he has to rant into the camera, did a video where he lamented the ubiquitous political marketing and the underlying truth that they just want your money...

"Stop politicising my noodles!"

was the punchline...

The generation leaving university now are an activist generation, just like the baby boomers (the other great campaigning generation) before them they have grown up in a prolonged period of growth, a 21 year old does not remember the Great Recession of 2007 as anything but a backdrop to their childhood, an 18 year old was just about to join the Cubs when Lehman Brothers collapsed. In contrast Generation X, those in their late 40s and 50s had lived through two recessions in ten years between 1980 and 1990, the older ones amongst us will remember the 1975 oil shock and the winter of discontent (bodies left un-buried because of industrial action tends to stick in the memory), it gave Generation X an assumption that money was not guaranteed. A cynical eye would say hardship teaches a sense of perspective.

Gen Z (or Zoomers) are leaving university eager to spend their money with the most responsible brand, and that's the right thing to do. However, it is clear that large corporations act responsibly only so far as it does not damage their profitability, or the expectation of profitability. It is not because they are kind. It is because it earns them money, or at least does not cost them money.

So, that is why some companies indulge in "Woke washing". They know that people care about this or that cause and so they support it too, or they make a virtue out of supporting causes so commonplace it is almost saying nothing. It is in a sense a performance, the people who run the campaigns in the corporations are true believers, but then we all are. Why make the point if we all agree if not just to show us you agree and to act out your agreement? It is not much to say on a Twitter feed "We stand against fascism"...was it ever in doubt?

Recession is coming, and when recession comes non-core costs are cut. It is the nature of things. A company on the verge of bankruptcy which paid for a float in a parade, or to plant trees in the Amazon, or to lobby parliament on behalf of the indigenous population on Tanna, without a visible return would be irresponsible, its first duty is to its investors. If it was your pension invested in that company you would be questioning the reasoning.

Recession necessarily pushes back expenditure, the key is to ensure that we see the performance for what it is and continue to spend our money with the businesses that have at their core boring, but responsible, actions...paper from sustainable forests, low carbon businesses which are low carbon because they source locally, small businesses that support a family who work locally, short supply chains, inclusive and diverse businesses which have diversity of people and opinions in their DNA not grafted on by a Diversity and Inclusion Committee who are following a mechanical route and who will be dropped as too expensive when the stock price falls. 

We will need to learn to be more discerning in our socially responsible spending in coming years as incomes shrink, a bit of research, rather than being persuaded by the marketing would help. It is not necessary to stop being responsible, but we need to learn to think and not just be comforted by the empty slogans of faceless corporations.

this is actually “woke-washing” – or profit-driven companies cynically cashing in on people’s idealism and using progressive-orientated marketing campaigns to deflect questions about their own ethical records

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