Opinion: ‘Woke Culture’ just a tool companies use to get customers in the door

Are companies lying about their values to sell products? (Image source: Muhammadtaha Ibrahim Ma’aji)

By Marco Krantis | @KrantisMarco

Increasingly companies are adopting ‘wokeness’ or ‘woke culture’ into their advertising and marketing campaigns.

There’s an actual term for this – greenwashing. Greenwashing is when a company/organisation lies about their environmental impact or mission to deliberately mislead customers into buying their products. 

When companies straight up lie, using forced labour and abusing human rights, that’s just called terrible human behaviour. Viewing people as dollar signs.

That can’t happen now a days … especially with big companies!!

There’s multiple examples of such behaviour from big brands, trying to manipulate customers to make a buck. Ill just run you through a few examples:

Nestle: In 2019 Nestle had a classaction law suit filed against them, alleging the “sustainably sourced cocoa beans” Nestle promoted, were a gimmick and wasn’t possible, as their company was potentially responsible for massive deforestation in West Africa. They also faced allegations that their agriculture used child and slave labour. 

In 2020, Nestle France faced a lawsuit due to thousands of fish being killedin a river in north-eastern France. In a statement to the public Nestle said “occasional and involuntary overflow of biological sludge effluent, without the presence of chemicals” and that “As soon as we learned of the report on Sunday at 23:00, we immediately stopped production and put an end to the spill.”

Apple: In 2019, a case was launched against Apple, Tesla, Google, Microsoft and Dell. The lawsuit, backed by field research conducted by Harvard Kennedy School of Government lecturer Siddharth Kara, accused the companies of aiding and abetting in the death and serious injuries of children, who were working in the cobalt mines in Congo, for all these companies.

As a result, the Congolese government promised to engineer regulated areas for miners, so such instances refrain from occurring again. 

Nike: In the ‘90s and early 2000s, Nike were found guilty of torrential slave labour.Over the years since the company have been promoting their innovation in the industry, fixing the issues that once plagued it. A simple farce? Or genuine?

A 2018 report by the Clean Clothes Campaign cited Adidas and Nike were still found to pay workers poverty wages.

It must be tough to pay workers a fair salary when your annual revenue is over $US 30 billion. How can they afford it?

Okay, Okay. That’s very bad. Isn’t that illegal?

Slave labour thrives within countries which have insecure economies and extremely limited options for the poor.

In developing countries, laborers are without a lot of options when it comes to work. As a result, that take the jobs they can, even when the pay is horrendous, the work hours are long and the world load treacherous. 

It may get worse. A report by Time Magazinestated that due to the manufacturing industry shifting to robotic reliance, more people will be forced into harsh working conditions, where thousands of workers are taken advantage of.

These marketing campaigns are dangerous!

Money drives this nasty cycle. One of the culprits, however, is marketing. 

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, any statement representing your products should be true, accurate and backed with evidence.

These companies rarely make direct claims regarding their mission of ‘woke culture’. For example, Nike pushed an Ad campaign around Colin Kapernick, backing him for kneeling during the national anthem over police brutality in America. 

People would see that and think wow! Nike care for civil and human rights. Until they realise Nike continue to enforce slave labour in their sweat shops and the main reason for the campaign is just to make more money. 

The same with Apple. They rarely put out direct claims regarding political and civil rights. Ricky Gervais said it best at the most recent Golden Globes, “Apple rolled into the TV game with a superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweatshops in China,”

These campaigns and clever tactics will continue to drive these companies profit margins. Countries are unable to prosecute these means of advertising as they are meddled in messy webs. 

People can’t sue Nike over falsely backing Kapernick or his message. Especially when they have backed him with millions of dollars and will give him a branded line.

Especially with Apple, you can’t sue someone over a good TV show, even when it could blead the line and influence public perception surrounding Apple. 

…So, What now?

I would say do your research. Buy from companies who ethically source and pay their workers fairly. These huge companies will only notice your feelings when it hits their dollars. 

There’s multiple local companies who ethically source and respect their workers, including NagnataSalt GyspyKITX, and Vege Threads

These are just to name a few. I’m in no position to tell you what to buy. I am even guilty of using a fair few of these companies listed above who are guilty of such poor decisions. 

I’m just not a fan of companies being hypocrites and taking the public for a ride. It isn’t fair, but the only people that could alter it would be you. 

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