The Point: Corporate Virtue-Signaling

Activism sells. For the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, I’m John Stonestreet with the Point.

During the taxi strike in New York City over President Trump’s immigration order, Uber drew criticism for keeping its cars running. Competitor Lyft saw an opportunity and pounced. Their CEO donated a million dollars to the ACLU, and was rewarded with a surge of new customers.

Writing in The Guardian, Alex Holder highlights other companies who use social and political activism to raise their bottom line, like Starbucks, Airbnb, and Unilever.

“Companies are now attempting to outdo each other with major acts of generosity,” he writes. “But there’s a catch; they’ll do good as long as … their customers know about it.”

“Our activism is mediated by brands,” said one advertising expert. “Brands are allowing people to pat themselves on the back without … personally having to sacrifice anything.”

I seem to remember Someone saying something about not doing good deeds to be seen by men. Well, whatever these companies’ politics, it’s clear their reward is here on earth. Christians should skip the virtue-signaling and look for our reward elsewhere.


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  • BillikenHawkeye

    How is this any different from businesses (or even “Christian” businesses) that want to target Christians by putting a fish in their advertisement or by advertising in a “christian business directory?” Isn’t that also a form of “corporate virtue signalling?”

  • fred2

    @John Stonestreet One thing to remember is that corporate
    virtue signaling doesn’t always pay. For instance, Starbucks announced
    it would hire 10,000 refugees as an obvious protest of President Trump’s
    executive order. What Starbucks didn’t realize until too late is most
    Americans agree with the EO as well as the President’s Hire American
    philosophy. So, Starbucks has suffered falling stocks, declining sales
    and rival companies poaching their customers. One of the latter examples
    is the once little known Black Rifle Coffee, which has enjoyed soaring
    sales after announcing it would hire 10,000 American veterans, a clear
    dig at Starbucks’ hiring policy.

    Starbucks joins Target, Kellogg’s, Macy’s, and the NFL as
    part of a growing number of corporations who learn that virtue signaling
    can backfire.