Trickle-down 'Woke' dominates business

Originally published in the Spectator Australia:

‘Go Woke, Go Broke’ has been a favourite cry of those that oppose companies that take on fashionable causes but alienate the public. The problem with this catchphrase is that often the public are not the customers…

Jeremy’s Razors is the newest brainchild of a conservative pushback against companies that ‘hate you’. Their ad is hilarious, and many members of the public in America have gone out and bought one (and many in Australia wish they could buy them). This kind of pushback is very much needed.

However, real change isn’t going to come until the actual customers of Woke corporations pushback: other companies.

The reason why corporate ‘Wokeness’ or ‘progressiveness’– also known as it’s more formalised conception Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibility (ESR) policies – is so pervasive is that it is not merely culture, but law. More specifically, it is contract law with big companies passing on their Woke policies to smaller companies whenever they sign up to supply agreements and the like.

Many were shocked by the amount of mining companies that came out in support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, but this was so completely predictable when they all have Indigenous Reconciliation Policies!

We also have the strange prevalence of private sector enterprises having Covid vaccine mandates enacted on their staff ‘by choice’. It isn’t much of a choice when their customers – which are other companies – have clauses in their contracts that say that in order to provide them services they had to guarantee their staff were vaccinated. For example, to receive stock from a supplier, both the supplier and the receiving company have to have the same vaccination policy. What is the easiest way to guarantee this? Have their own mandatory vaccination policies in place.

For all the smears of the Left that ‘trickledown economics doesn’t work’ – a crude and inaccurate representation of free-market economic theory – ‘corporate social responsibility’ theory definitely trickles down from big companies to small, with each contract that is entered into.

If you are a smaller business wanting to win a tender to provide goods or services to a giant corporation, having the same ESR policies in place is vital.

This is no more true than the biggest behemoth of all – the government.

Have you looked at a government tender recently? There are mountains of ESR polices that form part of the contract with the government and if you have any hope of winning the government as a customer, the business must signal their compliance with each.

So, next time you hear the phrase ‘Go Woke, Go Broke’ remind yourself why these companies have these policies in the first place, to win customers… Big customers. A multi-million tender contract is worth far more than a few angry ‘conservative’ customers. After all, what are they going to do – buy from a competitor that probably has the same policies?

All this is pernicious because it means that the problem with ‘Woke Capital’ is far deeper than mere culture and whinging Millennials and Gen Z’s on the staff. All these policies carry the force of law – contract law. Each B2B transaction in which these policies form part of the basis of the agreement homogenises corporate culture in one direction.

The prevalence of homogenous ESR policies due to their way of ‘trickling down’ from one company to another through private contract law are as clear an example of the power that the private sector has as any. It is strange times indeed when it is being pushed by those that sit on the side of politics that has traditionally been sceptical of Big Corporate Power and opposed by those that have traditionally advocated for freer markets.

More importantly, those in opposition seem to be hell-bent on using the very sources of power they have traditionally deemed to be the weaker and less efficient – government – to fight against Woke Capital. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis taking on Disney is a prime example of this.

Taking away Disney’s special tax status and setting up a competitor razor company is a start but if conservatives really want to fight Woke Capital, they must start at the top.

Unfortunately, we can’t all do an Elon Musk and buy Twitter, but we can break the monopolies of industry bodies and professional associations – which is where a lot of these homogenising policies start – simply by cancelling our membership of these organisations and joining alternatives like the Free Speech Union or The Business Union instead.

Conservatives must become the real customers of these companies if they want to challenge Woke Capital at its root.

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