Woke capitalism is defined as forms of marketing, advertising, and corporate structures that pertain to socio-political viewpoints held mainly by Millennials and Generation Z, including social justice and activist causes.
Today, corporations are pursuing woke agendas such as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG). Many corporations do so to create the appearance of “fitting in” and/or to avoid scrutiny.
What does this have to do with the car wash industry?
Well, if we examine the biggest car wash chains, it appears that woke has started to come to the industry.
For example, we found one company with a DEI program as part of its sustainability goal. Some elements of this program include a diversity and inclusion committee, tracking and reporting on diversity numbers, and training tools focused on unconscious bias and creating an inclusive workplace.
I found another car wash corporation professing to embrace diversity by stating that it includes people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, lifestyles, and belief systems, and helps cultivate skills and talents. However, this company did not reference a specific DEI or ESG initiative.
Consequently, the question is, if one car wash company goes woke, will others follow? If others follow, will DEI be used as a cudgel to punish competitors with attack or contrast advertising?
One thing is for sure, woke capitalism isn’t easy. For example, the role of a diversity and inclusion committee is to set key goals and steps to achieve them, institutionalize policies that support equity, and evaluate efforts. This usually requires a chief people officer that oversees the “people success” and recruitment functions.
People success covers learning and development, diversity and inclusion, belonging, total rewards, and business partners.
Proponents claim businesses with people success are more likely to outperform the competition in terms of profitability. Conversely, big companies like Amazon, Target, and Capital One have decided to cut the cord on their DEI and ESG initiatives. Reportedly, they have grown tired of the cost, lack of results, and minimal return on investment.
There is no excuse for discrimination of any sort in the workplace. Finding qualified people willing to work is difficult enough. However, research consistently shows that most firms aren’t very good at building effective DEI efforts.
According to a leading gender equality expert, DEI efforts fail because of employee fatigue, backlash with DEI initiatives, and denial of inequality. Other experts believe DEI trainings receive backlash and resistance because they are mandatory.
In short, employees don’t want to be forced to learn about things they don’t believe in. If DEI is going to be successful, it needs employee buy-in from the start.