The tactic of trying to “shame” a corporation away from harming the environment, consumers and/or democracy relies on a misunderstanding of what a corporation is. Corporations serve as masks for the actual power-brokers, absorbing the public disdain for the power-brokers’ decisions.
If activists want to change the decisions made they have to realize that a corporation’s executives and Board members make decisions, corporations don’t. The recent post Understanding What a Corporation Actually Is Can Help Restore Democracy explains,
Here’s the thing: A corporation is a contract. It is a legal agreement enabled by our (“We the People”) government. That’s it.
Corporations are not sentient entities. Contracts don’t “think” or “want” or “need” or say” or “care” or “do” anything. Neither does a will, nor a lease, nor a confidentiality agreement. Corporations also can’t be “greedy” or “criminal” or “good” or “altruistic.” But people can.
Corporations don’t do things, but the executives & Board of the corporation do do things.
Go After The Doers
Corporations don’t “behave,” executives and Board members do. Executives and Board members also care more about their personal interests than about the interests of a corporation or institution they are supposed to be managing. Instead of thinking you can change corporate “behavior,” activists should instead go after the executives and Board members who actually make decisions.
Unions Understand Power
Way back when I was consulting for unions I was involved in a campaign to get a large public institution to stop hiring non-union construction companies. This involved researching the Board members of the institution, learning about their public lives, and finding strategic points to target.
Example, one Board member funded a symphony. The union targeted the symphony with very public actions naming and shaming the Board member for forcing people’s living standards down, risking worker’s safety, etc. The Board member cared what the symphony social group thought about him. The union shamed him in front of people who mattered to him.
Another Board member was an executive at a company that was getting ready to go public. The last thing he wanted was bad publicity of any kind directed at him.
The union conducted other similar public shaming actions targeting the actual decision-makers.
The union publicly shamed the decision-makers, not some non-sentient entity (a corporation or institution) that masked the actual decision-makers. Things changed real quick.