At least 122 UK-based charities, from large multinationals to small community groups, have spent money on “unconscious bias training” for employees, according to a report by the Telegraph published on Friday. What it discovered is likely just “the tip of the iceberg,” the report said, since companies offering such courses brag about having many undisclosed clients in the voluntary sector.

The industry originated from the implicit-association test (IAT) – a method developed in the late 1990s that was meant to identify hidden stereotypes in test subjects. The tool’s scope and viability remains in question, but it helped create a sprawling consultation business, which tells clients that it can make employees more aware of and less influenced by their prejudices.

Critics see implicit bias training as nothing but a scam, a chance for cowardly corporations and public officials to signal their virtue by showing the “woke” mob they are active in the fight against racism, sexism and other bad-isms in the workplace. The expected result of the training is wider acceptance of diversity and traits such as gender, race and sexuality, which some see as an ideologically motivated outcome that does not necessarily correlate with either healthier working relations or productivity.

In the UK, unconscious bias training remains highly popular in universities. Those studying at Somerville College Oxford, the alma mater of Conservative icon Margaret Thatcher, had been required to score 100 per cent in a test after taking an online course, according to the Daily Mail. After a complaint from the Free Speech Union, it is reviewing this policy, however.

The Tory government, on the other hand, has rejected the idea of forcing civil servants to learn how to be less biased, stating that the training has “no sustained impact on behaviour and may even be counter-productive”.

Some of the charities questioned by the Telegraph said the training they paid for was voluntary for employees to take part in, came at minimal cost and had a positive effect on staff, but most refused to provide further details. The newspaper said day courses of this kind are advertised at around £300 ($420) per person, though those organisations that did disclose costs stated a significantly lower price tag.

Nevertheless, some believe there were better ways to spend the money, considering it originates from donations. “I hope that, in future, if charities are wasting the money that people have donated on things like this, then the Government will be able to step in and do something about it,” MP Ben Bradley said.

The Conservative lawmaker had refused to take part in such training when it was introduced in Whitehall last September in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests.