Woke capitalism debate at March 23 ethics and business forum

Danielle Warren and Wayne Winegarden

Danielle Warren and Wayne Winegarden

March 15, 2022

By Mark C. Anderson

CSU Monterey Bay’s latest business webinar, the 20th Annual Ethics and Responsible Business Forum, will be a debate-style forum around the theme "Woke Capitalism: Should Businesses Jump In or Stay Out?" 

The interactive virtual webinar happens 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, March 23. 

Like the forums that preceded it, this one will reflect the way in which CSUMB seeks to engage with the issues of the day, in harmony with the broader university’s commitment to responsible, ethical, sustainable business practice. Past themes have dissected the realities of “Fake News,” the Gig Economy, the cannabis industry and the Black Lives Matter Movement. 

The “Woke Capitalism” session arrives as businesses everywhere are caught in a conundrum: Should they embrace corporate activism, engaging in initiatives that give expression to social causes, or does that effort risk both alienating consumers and driving political divisions? Should businesses remain neutral, or would neutrality abet injustice? Does corporate activism reflect or impinge upon our democratic process? 

Two noteworthy speakers will lend their insight and argue both sides of the debate: Danielle Warren, Ph.D., professor of Management and Global Business at Rutgers Business School at the State University of New Jersey; and Wayne Winegarden, Ph.D., a senior fellow in Business and Economics at Pacific Research Institute and director of the think tank’s Center for Medical Economics and Innovation. 

Remarks and questions from a panel will follow the debate, with audience questions welcome. 

The annual event is a collaborative undertaking organized by CSUMB’s College of Business, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, College of Science, and College of Health Sciences and Human Services. It is also supported by Associated Students. 

Angeline Nariswari, an associate professor of marketing and social entrepreneurship in the College of Business as well as the co-chair of the ERBF Organizing Committee, helps put the series in perspective. 

“The forum serves as a venue for campus and community members to develop critical thinking through respectful discussion and debate,” she said. “Particularly as it pertains to current practices that showcase the intersection between business and society and their moral and ethical implications.”

Nariswari marvels at the impact of the debate on its audiences, which is revealed in part through a poll gauging which side of the argument the audience aligned with most. 

“The outcome of this poll is always interesting and often unpredictable—[and] it may also be surprising to the participants themselves, as they often admit to voting in a manner different from their assumed position prior to joining the debate,” she said. “By following a live debate, listening to expert opinion, and engaging through questions, [the] event is an opportunity to become more knowledgeable and critically informed.” 

The forum will be moderated and emceed by CSUMB distinguished lecturer Jeff Froshman, with panelists comprised of National Institute of Criminal Justice Reform policy analyst Amir Chapel; CSUMB business student Jacob Lopez; and University of Central Florida professor and author Staci M. Zavattaro. 

The event is free and open to the public, especially students, professionals and community members. 

Visit the College of Business webpage for more details, including the full debate brief and registration link.