News & Insights

Companies Should Avoid Panic and Listen Harder Over ‘Woke Wars’, As Report Shows Social Factors Can Improve Reputation

Social factors labelled ‘woke’ by some detractors are driving reputation improvement for some companies, according to new data analysis from BOLDT.

But companies should consider the potential consequences before committing to action in areas considered woke, as this has no effect on sales. The new report, ‘Does a Woke Reputation Increase Business Value?’, points to a need for companies to hold their nerve and analyse the risks.

For companies, the term ‘woke’ is increasingly used to describe their actions or positions related to social and political issues, especially those concerning diversity and inclusion – but such action has also drawn increasing levels of criticism over the past couple of years. In the U.S. for example, Republican candidate Ron De Santis has declared a ‘war on woke’, and Bud Light’s perceived attitude to transgender issues created a backlash and boycott of the brand.


The report, compiled by BOLDT using ESG data and a proven analytical model from Mettle Capital, assesses the volume and sentiment of ‘woke-related’ content driving trust – in this case, being a trusted business or brand that attracts sales – and reputation, or how the company is regarded by all stakeholder groups. It found that:

  • There is no direct benefit to a company’s share price in seeking to be woke
  • Over the past 12 months, being woke in the UK has – for most companies in most sectors – had a greater impact on reputation (with regulators, policymakers and NGOs) than it did on trust (with consumers)
  • Sectoral analysis suggests that technology, consumer goods, and food and drink sectors saw reputations benefit the most from woke factors, while healthcare and transportation sectors benefited least
  • Companies should consider the full range of factors, opportunities and risks when developing and communicating positions on social issues that could lead it to be considered woke

Steve Earl, Partner at BOLDT, said: “Some companies have been prone to making knee-jerk statements and commitments on woke topics because it feels like the right thing to do, but they need to listen and think hard before doing so. We saw that overall, these social drivers can drive reputation but not sales, so firms should be clear whether what they’re doing is a group or brand-level undertaking. The decry of ‘go woke, go broke’, doesn’t seem to be accurate, but there is still much at risk so companies should tread carefully.”




BOLDT is a senior-led consultancy focused on delivering business strategy, communications and political engagement. BOLDT has offices in Berlin, Brussels, Dusseldorf, London, Oslo and Zurich. ​BOLDT has a network of international partners which enables us to give clients support across Europe and around the world.

About Mettle Capital
Co-founded by Dr Andrew Tucker, a sustainability data scientist, and Rufus Grantham, a capital markets & sustainable finance specialist, in 2019, Mettle provides data that enables the integration of trust and sustainability issues into: impact investment, insurance provision, corporate decision making and supply chain management.

About the report
Levels of Reputation and Trust analysed in this report are based on an academic approach developed by Bauer and Barnett: Reputation is the collective judgements of multiple stakeholders of the impacts of a company over time – in other words, whether it is a ‘good’ business Trust is an individual’s judgement whether to accept the promise of the company’s product or service in this instance – in other words, whether customers want to buy the product or service