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Just Be Evil

Frances Haugen, Scott Hargreaves, Carl Rhodes
Chaired by Sam Mostyn
Sun 18 September 1:00pm
Sun 18 September 1:00pm
Is woke capitalism the next step towards a better world, or a form of dangerous hypocrisy that threatens democracy? 

Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman famously said in 1970 that ‘the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits’, and much of western corporate culture has lived by that credo ever since.  To critics, this is what has allowed corporations to ravage the environment and trash the rights of workers – the pursuit of profits above all. Does that it mean it’s time for corporations to stand up and acknowledge their obligations to society and the planet? Or would it be better if they stopped pretending to care? Is woke capitalism the answer, or is it a more insidious strategy to colonise and control the last remaining public spaces, to the detriment of democracy? 

When major corporations back social and political causes, it is not because they are political thought leaders. It is because they are convinced the cause has mainstream support.
Carl Rhodes

Frances Haugen

Born in Iowa City, Iowa, Frances Haugen is the daughter of two professors and grew up attending the Iowa caucuses with her parents, instilling a strong sense of pride in democracy and responsibility for civic participation. Haugen holds a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Olin College and an MBA from Harvard. She is a specialist in algorithmic product management, having worked on ranking algorithms at Google, Pinterest, Yelp and Facebook. She was recruited to Facebook to be the lead Product Manager on the Civic Misinformation team, which dealt with issues related to democracy and misinformation, and later also worked on counter-espionage. During her time at Facebook, Haugen became increasingly alarmed by the choices the company makes prioritising their own profits over public safety and putting people’s lives at risk. As a last resort and at great personal risk, Frances made the courageous decision to blow the whistle on Facebook. Haugen fundamentally believes that the problems we are facing today with social media are solvable. We can have social media that brings out the best in humanity.


Scott Hargreaves

Scott became Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs in 2022, having joined the staff in 2015. The IPA is an independent, non-profit public policy think tank, dedicated to preserving and strengthening the foundations of economic and political freedom in Australia. Prior to that he worked in a range of private and public organisations, including periods as a political adviser, corporate affairs manager, as a manager of sustainability for a listed company, and managing small businesses. Amongst other roles at the IPA he was Editor of and frequent contributor of IPA Review, which has been in continuous publication since 1947. He has a Bachelor of Arts, an MBA from the Melbourne Business School, and a Master of Commercial Law.


Carl Rhodes

Carl Rhodes is Dean and Professor of Organization Studies at the University of Technology Sydney Business School. Carl writes about the ethical and democratic dimensions of business and work. His work endeavours to question and reformulate the role of business in society so prosperity can be shared by all. Carl’s most recent books are Woke Capitalism: How Corporate Morality is Sabotaging Democracy (Bristol University Press, 2022), Organizing Corporeal Ethics (Routledge, 2022, with Alison Pullen) and Disturbing Business Ethics (Routledge, 2020).


Sam Mostyn

Sam Mostyn is a businesswoman and sustainability adviser, with a long history of executive and governance roles across business, sport, climate change, the arts, policy, and NFP sectors. She is the current President of Chief Executive Women, chairs Women’s Economic Opportunities Review, Citi Australia and serves on the Mirvac board alongside a broad portfolio of other roles including chairing Ausfilm, The Climate Council, and the Centre for Policy Development. Sam was awarded the Order of Australia in 2021 for distinguished service to business and sustainability, and to the community, through seminal contributions to a range of organisations, and to women.