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Social Movements, Diversity, and Corporate Short-Termism

Author(s): Akshaya Kamalnath

Social movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, powered by social media, have given rise to heightened corporate activism on social issues. It has also drawn attention to the importance of addressing diversity issues for the workforce rather than simply at the board or even management level. This article argues that although the focus on such social issues is desirable and indeed necessary, myopic responses to social media pressures can be counter-productive. Instead, it proposes that corporate decisions and actions should be geared towards addressing issues that help the companies’ stakeholders in the long term. Further, it argues that long-term policies that improve corporate culture will ultimately bear results because employees cannot be won over by mere virtue-signalling or short-term policies. Besides, both negative and positive information about firm culture will ultimately make its way out, especially through employee output either on social media or on anonymous forums like Glassdoor surveys, thus affecting corporate reputation. Apart from proposing measures that companies might adopt to address issues of harassment and discrimination, this article also advocates the use of flexible work options and argues that Covid-19 lockdowns might have already shown that “working from home” is indeed possible.

The article contributes to the nascent strand of literature on the impact of social movements that use social media on corporate governance by flagging the issue of corporate short-termism on social justice issues as a concern. It also contributes to the literature on diversity in corporations by identifying solutions that will bring sustained improvement to diversity in the entire workforce (as against just the board of directors, which has been the subject of recent laws and shareholder activism ).

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Centre: CIPL

Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy

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