We have been following how activism has become a part of everyday life, from companies standing for causes they believe will appeal to their consumers and receiving great feedback, to companies standing for causes that seem to be popular with their consumers and receiving negative feedback. Today our trend snack will look at what happens when employees, not companies or consumers, decide to stand for what they believe is right and/or ethical. Continue to read how employee activism has created ripple effects in society.
In November 2018, a number of Google employees organised a walkout which they called “Walkout for Real Change”. The grievances under the banner of this protest included unfair labour practices, a toxic work culture, the way in which Google deals with sexual harassment allegations and the buidling of AI tools for military use. The activists also pointed to retaliation against individuals who had spoken out against the company’s unethical practices. The Walkout for Real Change protest has grown into a movement which supports the #metoo movement and the Global Climate Strike , while rejecting tech companies developing software for ICE (US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement).
Microsoft has been added to the list of tech companies on the receiving end of criticism from their vocal employees. Workers staged a protest against ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) using Microsoft software, as well as against the US Army’s use of Microsoft Hololens technology. They are angry as they say they did not sign up to manufacture weapons to be used against immigrants and other nations. The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, posted a statement on his LinkedIn account saying that the only services that Microsoft offered to the US Army were cloud computing and mail.
Other protests by Microsoft employees include one against the unfair treatment of women in the company, as well as support for the Global Climate Strike , mentioned in more detail in the Amazon section below.
When it comes to protest action, Amazon employees are up there with the best of them. 2019 has been an active year for them. They “celebrated” Amazon Prime Day with a worldwide labour protest to demand better working conditions and pay. Following this epic demonstration of employee activism, they organised themselves once again to request that the company and boss, Jeff Bezos, take a stand against climate change . In addition, they are adding their voices to the Global Climate Strike, which is organised by concerned young people around the world to highlight the consequences of climate change through protests and walkouts and to demand an end to the age of fossil fuels. Their actions are a good example of the power of employee activism to get companies to support a major 21st century initiative – to preserve the world for coming generations.
The case studies above indicate how certain groups and individuals are no longer content to do the bare minimum, but are starting to use their positions to bring about change.
With this change in the zeitgeist, what is your company doing to ensure that you stay ahead of the curve? These changes could have an impact on whether your company stays relevant to the world’s growing cohort of activist consumers and employees.
Do you know where to begin?
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By Tumelo Mojapelo
As Head of Content and Foresight Facilitator, Tumelo Mojapelo oversees and directs the
research undertaken and content generated by the Flux Trends team. With a wealth of
knowledge and experience in the trends analysis space, her mission is to empower
entrepreneurs and business people to make better decisions through an understanding of trends – how seemingly unrelated factors and events have the potential to disrupt current business models and society.
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