Authentic brand activism is something that many believe they are buying into but in turn are succumbing to the deceptions of woke-washing, green-washing and purpose-washing, to name a few.

As a consumer, it is imperative to know how to spot them and to question the legitimacy of a company’s claims. As a company, taking the steps to educate, commit to change and re-program the way the company operates are just a few of the ways to begin to properly integrate transformation.

Today, these are conversations that cannot be avoided, yet many companies are promoting “changes” that fall into the category of woke washing - when a company uses social movements to increase sales without addressing how their business is complicit. Rather than targeting and actively working to reform social inequalities, they skim the surface merely creating an appearance.

Image credit: hands movements, from a book on dance gestures.

A popular act is when companies choose to support a cause through a charity over the course of a defined period of time and donate a percentage of profits made by selling certain items related to the campaign, which, once finished, ends their marketing in support of the cause.

While on one end the outcome of these actions may create awareness, there are unlimited examples of profit-driven corporations taking advantage of these causes to publicize themselves and in turn make profit.

These companies intentionally portray themselves to seem more actively involved than they are in order to appease an audience but do not integrate these principles into their corporate social responsibility (CSR). In the long run, the only outcome is the failure to bring any real benefits to the cause they are supporting both environmentally and socially.

Image credit: Andrew Stawicki, 1989.

That being said, in order for companies to effectively lead change they will need to shift from using quick-fix marketing to focusing on remodeling their values from within. Creating a long term transformational vision will require dynamic thinking and awareness of constant shifting beliefs. Ensuring brand transparency is an essential part of this process. Companies will need to reassess their communications to their employees, consumers, suppliers and stakeholders while staying true to causes that genuinely reflect their values.

There are many that embody what it means to be purposeful in what they communicate and in their actions, providing in-depth information such as impact reports, their guarantees as a company and as well, their commitments to diversity, inclusion and equity based on their CRS. Taking this course of action redefines how brands can create positive impacts both internally and externally.

The decisions made have the ability to impact everyone involved from consumers to suppliers and everything in between. It is in everyone's best interest to commit to being honest and holding accountability when needed. As the world continues to change so should the approaches taken.

Courtesy of Poster Journal.
2.5 min

Woke Washing