Developing Authentic Corporate Activism Initiatives

Thomas Edson, Associate Professor Dennis Charsky, Department of Strategic Communications, Ithaca College, 953 Danby Road, Ithaca NY 14850

The purpose of this paper is to answer the following question: What factors are most important to consider when creating a corporate stance on social justice movements? Studies have found that consumers are increasingly keeping an eye on what statements companies put out on hot-button socio-political issues such as racial injustice, sexual harrasment and violence, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, and queer (LGBTQ+) issues. In addition, the rise of cancel culture and increasing ability of social media to disseminate backlash for certain corporate activism efforts has produced public relations crises for some companies and their leadership. At the same time, companies that have engaged in corporate activism have seen minimal impact (positive or negative) financially to this point. The impacts of corporate activism on a company have so far produced mixed results, so how these impacts are weighed within corporations becomes a particularly peculiar question, especially with more and more companies engaging in such practices. Research for this paper includes defining key terms such as corporate activism, cancel culture, and corporate values. In addition, research includes the evaluation of case studies and research about corporate activism and its impacts on companies, as well as an interview with a public relations professional who has a variety of experience with corporate activism. The paper will conclude with an attempt to identify and understand key themes in business thought processes regarding corporate activism. After evaluating the facts and making a series of inferences based on these facts, the expected conclusion is that companies should take into account cancel culture and consumer beliefs when creating social justice messaging, but that the company should ultimately come up with a statement that matches the company’s values and practices. 

Key Words: Social Justice Movements, Corporate Activism, Corporate Values, Cancel Culture

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Thomas Edson

Institution: Ithaca College

Type: Poster

Subject: Communications

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 4
Date/Time: Tue 11:00am-12:00pm
Session Number: 3651