Why Woke-Washing Isn’t Enough

The ongoing Black Lives Matter protests across the US have been a beacon of hope, equality, and unity. As the historic movement continues to become more relevant, many companies have rushed to advertise their commitment to racial justice, without adequate action. 

The ensuing hypocrisy and irony of these companies have formed the basis of what is known now as “woke washing,” which is the appropriating the language of social activism into marketing materials.  

Companies are speaking out because the costs of silence are high, but the costs of “woke washing” are high too. Statement fatigue is a term used to describe a growing level of disinterest, ambivalence, and outrage towards companies calling out racial injustice without taking meaningful action.  

In the current social climate, employees and consumers are becoming more empowered to call out hypocrisy within companies by citing diversity statistics, especially in leadership, and negative workplace experiences.  

Companies like  Whole Foods, Amazon, and  Adidas have seen public complaints from employees and consumers highlighting that the corporate statements of solidarity never addressed or acknowledged internal inequities.  

One thing is clear: statements of solidarity are a starting point, but during this critical time, there must be more action from companies. 

So, how can companies show commitment to change?  

  • By prioritizing and assessing corporate accountability protocols 
  • Committing to corporate structural transformation 
  • Re-aligning the power dynamic between the organization and its employees, allowing employees to drive company culture. 

Consumers and employees are now demonstrating that they have not only the power of demand but a strong voice in deciding which companies meet those demands. As we enter the new normal, organizations must be mindful that they are being held accountable.  

Read the full corporate social justice playbook here