Woke Capital: The Role of Corporations in Social Movements

55 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2020

Date Written: December 2019


Iconic companies such as Apple, BlackRock, Delta, Google (now Alphabet), Lyft, Salesforce, and Starbucks, have recently taken very public stances on various social issues. In the past, corporations were largely silent in the face of them. Now the opposite is true—corporations play an increasingly visible role in social movements and there are times when corporations have led the discussion, particularly in areas where they have a self-interest or public opinion supports it. The enormous influence corporations wield on both the economic and social fabric of our society due to the legal framework and norms under which they operate make them uniquely positioned to affect the outcome of social movements—for better or worse. The contribution of this Article is three-fold: it discusses how court cases and changing norms about the role of the corporation in society led to the rise of the modern business corporation, which in turn laid the groundwork for corporations’ involvement in social movements; provides an original descriptive account of the role of corporations in social movements using three case studies and the ways in which corporations have helped or hindered such movements; and tackles the underlying normative question about the appropriateness of the involvement of corporations in social movements in light of the legal framework in which it resides. This Article concludes that despite the perils, corporate law holds the promise of being a force for social change.

Keywords: social movements, corporate social responsibility, travel ban, Muslim ban, gun control, LGBTQ rights

Suggested Citation

Fan, Jennifer S., Woke Capital: The Role of Corporations in Social Movements (December 2019). Harvard Business Law Review, Vol. 9, No. 2, Pp. 441-94 (2019), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3556120

Jennifer S. Fan (Contact Author)

Loyola Law School Los Angeles ( email )

919 Albany Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015-1211
United States

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