Publication Title

Harvard Business Law Review

Document Type



Iconic companies such as Apple, BlackRock, Delta, Google (now Alphabet), Lyft, Salesforce, and Starbucks, have recently taken very public stances on various social issues. In the past, corporations were largely silent in the face of them. Now the opposite is true—corporations play an increasingly visible role in social movements and there are times when corporations have led the discussion, particularly in areas where they have a self-interest or public opinion supports it. The enormous influence corporations wield on both the economic and social fabric of our society due to the legal framework and norms under which they operate make them uniquely positioned to affect the outcome of social movements—for better or worse. The contribution of this Article is three-fold: it discusses how court cases and changing norms about the role of the corporation in society led to the rise of the modern business corporation, which in turn laid the groundwork for corporations’ involvement in social movements; provides an original descriptive account of the role of corporations in social movements using three case studies and the ways in which corporations have helped or hindered such movements; and tackles the underlying normative question about the appropriateness of the involvement of corporations in social movements in light of the legal framework in which it resides. This Article concludes that despite the perils, corporate law holds the promise of being a force for social change.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.