How woke capitalism indoctrinates workers

Employees are being coerced into espousing the political views of their bosses.

Joanna Williams

Joanna Williams

Topics Identity Politics UK

A new logo has started appearing on websites, in adverts and on shop windows. It’s an uppercase ‘B’ inside a circle, accompanied by the slogan ‘Certified B Corp’. If you’ve not spotted it yet, the chances are you soon will. This March is ‘B Corp Month’. Cue increased branding and glossy magazine publicity.

B Corp is the public face of so-called ethical capitalism. A ‘certified B Corp’ is a business or corporation that has been ‘verified’ as having ‘high standards of social and environmental performance’. This stamp of approval is handed down by ‘B Lab’, a small group that determines ‘social, environmental and governance best practices for businesses’. The lofty-sounding aim of all this credentialising is to create ‘a global economy that uses business as a force for good’. For the uninitiated, B Corp spells this out further: ‘Through their products, practices and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.’

Doing ‘no harm’ might seem unobjectionable enough, but there are good reasons to be wary of B Corp. For a start, it is unashamedly political. B Lab publicity makes grand claims that it will ‘shift the behaviour, culture and structural underpinnings of capitalism’ as it seeks ‘to address society’s most critical challenges’. How different the world might look today if only revolutionaries throughout history had swapped manning the barricades for doling out badges to company directors…

In reality, far from dismantling capitalism, B Corp reinvigorates it with a new sense of moral purpose. Its far-reaching political goals coincide perfectly with today’s elite consensus. Take sustainability. Every private jet-owning Davos attendee preaches the importance of Net Zero. So it is hardly surprising that a commitment to meeting environmental targets is one of the primary requirements for companies wanting to become B Corp-certified. Companies are expected to have an ‘environmental management system’ that covers waste generation, energy usage, water usage and carbon emissions. All this goes considerably beyond compliance with national laws and local regulations.

Or take B Lab policies on ‘justice, equity, diversity and inclusion’ (JEDI). Companies looking to sign up are told that B Corp ‘stands against all forms of oppression, including racism, transphobia, classism, sexism and xenophobia’. B Lab seeks to address ‘the fundamental injustice, inequity and violence that disproportionately impact people of colour and women’. ‘It is not enough to be quietly non-racist and non-sexist’, B Lab continues, ‘We have a responsibility to build a community of vocal, visible, anti-racist and feminist business leaders’.

If company bosses wanted to be activists in their own time, that would be one thing. But all this has far-reaching implications for those employed by B Corp-certified businesses, who are expected to become part of this ‘vocal community’, irrespective of their personal beliefs.

Over 8,000 businesses from 96 countries have been verified and are allowed to display the B Corp logo. This means that B Corp’s values are now imposed on over 755,000 workers and many millions more customers in every corner of the world. The UK alone has more than 1,900 B Corps, with over 81,000 employees.

Nowadays, it is no longer sufficient for minimum-wage workers to sell their labour. They must also sign up to the ideological beliefs of their employer. They must attend training sessions and awareness-raising courses. They must don badges and use approved vocabulary. All this can even extend to their personal use of social media outside of working hours.

Gender-critical commentator James Esses has recently exposed a number of examples of how woke capitalism is impacting on employment practices. UK pet retailer Pets at Home asks potential recruits: ‘Are you trans?’ The correct answer for wannabe dog-food sellers is presumably ‘Yes’. Pets at Home employs a far greater proportion of LGBT-identifying people than are in the population as a whole. Once in post, employees are directed towards guides on ‘how to be a better ally’ to LGBT people. They are taught one-sided definitions of terms such as ‘transphobia’ and ‘white privilege’, and even that being ‘childless’ is a form of privilege.

Pets at Home is not B Corp-certified – company bosses seem to prefer belonging to Stonewall’s Equality Inclusion Index – but whatever the label, company directors share the assumption that they have the right to impose their own views on workers. Esses has also exposed retailer John Lewis for promoting an internal magazine that offers breast-binding advice to the trans children of staff members.

Consumers are being targeted for re-education, too. Outdoor-clothing brand North Face offers customers a 20 per cent discount if they complete a ‘digital course in racial inclusion’. Wealthy consumers of high-end goods might appreciate an extra serving of feel-good ethics with their expensive new shoes. But shoppers everywhere are being pushed into accepting political messages with every purchase. It’s now rare to see a major high-street shop that doesn’t have staff with pronoun badges, rainbow-flag window displays, celebrations of Black History Month or boasts about meeting Net Zero targets.

B Corp serves to normalise ideas that are politically contentious and that, by and large, carry no democratic mandate. Rather than convincing the public to get on board with this agenda, the B Corp project imposes its will through smiling shop assistants.

This March, we need to say no to a side order of pronoun badges with our pet food. Capitalism’s chief executives may enjoy the feel-good factor that comes with B Corp certification. But employees and customers should not be coerced into accepting the political views of the boss class.

Joanna Williams is a spiked columnist and author of How Woke Won. She is a visiting fellow at MCC Budapest.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics UK


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