For decades, people have been calling for businesses to be more ethical. All of a sudden, it seems, there’s a mad rush by companies to be ethical: but with “ethical” defined as paying homage to whatever the politically correct idea of the moment is—and with zero tolerance, sometimes even outright hostility, for any other view, particularly a religious one. This is called “woke” capitalism.
From Monday, October 12 through Wednesday, October 14, 2020, the Busch School and the Napa Institute convened business, ecclesiastical, and academic leaders in New York and virtually to explore the phenomenon of woke capitalism and its implications for ethical management, particularly for people of faith. We sought to answer two important sets of questions about it. The first set of questions were around what is woke capitalism exactly: where did it come from, is it really a problem, and if so, how serious is it? The second set of questions were around what we—as managers, investors, scholars, citizens—should do about it.
Below is a summary of Brian Grim’s talk given at the conference.
IT CAN SEEM THAT LARGE CORPORATIONS are some of the worst offenders when it comes to woke capitalism. Brian Grim is the President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and he has a more positive opinion. He talked about how many large corporations are becoming more faith-friendly, with companies like Google, Intel, and American Express having company-sponsored faith-based groups.
Grim began by pointing out that corporate interest in “diversity” often does not extend to diverse religions. His particular interest is faith-oriented Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which help people align home, work, and worship. He explained that such groups are good for employers because restrictions on religious expression at work hurt productivity.
He listed six principles:
- 1. The modern corporate world is a mosaic, not a melting pot—there should be respect for all religions.
- 2. ERGs are a support for employers, for example in recruiting and mentoring.
- 3. ERGs promote inter-religious cooperation for example through cosponsored activities by Christian, Jewish, and Muslim groups at American Airlines.
- 4. ERGs make sense for both minority and majority faiths.
- 5. Managers should accept that faith is a workplace issue.
- 6. Company chaplaincy programs are good as they can boost morale.