Help or Hinder?

This project asks the following question: Does corporate media social justice content aid or create a hindrance to the memory of social justice movements?

What are your thoughts? Please post your comments to assist with building this Mediated Memory archive of the social justice movements on this site.

What is Corporate Social Justice?

“Corporate Social Justice is a reframing of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) that centers the focus of any initiative or program on the measurable, lived experiences of groups harmed and disadvantaged by society. CSR is a self-regulated framework that has no legal or social obligation for corporations to actually create positive impact for the groups they purport to help. Corporate Social Justice is a framework regulated by the trust between a company and its employees, customers, shareholders, and the broader community it touches, with the goal of explicitly doing good by all of them. Where CSR is often realized through a secondary or even vanity program tacked onto a company’s main business, Corporate Social Justice requires deep integration with every aspect of the way a company functions.

The need for this fundamental shift has become more apparent over the last few years. AT&T, which won a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index in 2017, was widely criticized for donating more than $2.5 million to anti-gay politicians that same year. Toms, whose one-for-one giving model won widespread accolades, eventually scrapped its model after it was revealed that its donations had disrupted local economies and producers. Amazon, which recently tweeted a statement expressing solidarity with Black communities, was immediately criticized for its selling of facial-recognition technology to law enforcement agencies and extreme underrepresentation of Black professionals. (Amazon later announced a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition technology.) Consumers and other stakeholders want companies that see social good as a necessity, not just a marketing strategy. It’s up to companies to respond to this new challenge.

Corporate Social Justice is not a feel-good approach that allows everyone to be heard, and by nature it won’t result in initiatives that will make everyone happy. The first step that many companies have taken by publicly supporting Black Lives Matter through public statements and donations is an example of that: a commitment to taking a stance, even if it alienates certain populations of consumers, employees, and corporate partners. The company must decide that it is okay with losing business from certain groups (say, white supremacists or police departments), since taking money from those groups would run counter to its Corporate Social Justice strategy.”

Source: Harvard Business Review, “We’re Entering the Age of Corporate Social Justice”, Lily Zheng, June 15, 2020. https://hbr.org/2020/06/were-entering-the-age-of-corporate-social-justice

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