Consumer boycotts
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Consumer Boycotts. “An attempt by one or more parties to achieve certain objectives by urging individual consumers to refrain from making selected purchases in the marketplace”. For many years Irish peasants were mistreated by their British landlords Charles Cunningham Boycott

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  • “Boycotts are as American as apple pie.” British landlords

  • 1765 Stamp Act led to boycotts of British goods in Boston, New York, Philadelphia

    • Act repealed a year later

  • German goods boycotted by American Jewish community in 1930’s and 1940’s

  • Alabama bus boycott organized by Martin Luther King was defining moment of civil rights movement


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Three characteristics of consumer boycotts British landlords

  • Focus on individual consumers rather than organizational entities

  • Attempts to use marketplace means to secure what may or may not be marketplace ends

    • Lower prices/higher quality goods

    • Environmental/other social goals

  • Emphasis on urging consumers to withdraw selectively from participation in marketplace


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Types of Boycotts British landlords

  • Commodity boycotts

    vs.

  • Brand-name or single-firm boycotts

  • Complete boycott

    vs.

  • Partial boycott


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  • Negative boycott British landlords

    vs.

  • Positive boycott

    • whitelist

    • buycott

    • girlcott

    • procott

    • anti-boycott

    • reverse boycott


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Consumer Economic Boycotts British landlords

  • Failure to lower prices beyond term of boycott

  • Lack of leadership

  • Prices more stable today

  • Staples being replaced by convenience foods and meals away from home

  • Dual incomes reduce impact of price increases on quality of life


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Other goals British landlords

  • Environmental

  • Labor

  • Animal rights

    • Animal testing/cosmetics & drugs

    • Treatment of food animals

  • Other social

    • Health

    • Community

  • Political


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Historically noteworthy boycotts: British landlords1. Nestle

  • provides information to mothers which promotes artificial infant feeding and discourages breastfeeding

  • donates free samples and supplies to health facilities to encourage artificial infant feeding

  • gives inducements to health workers for promoting its products

  • does not provide clear warnings on labels of benefits of breastfeeding and dangers of artificial feeding

    • In some cases labels are in a language that mothers are unlikely to understand


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  • UNICEF: in areas with unsafe water, bottle-fed baby 25 times more likely to die from diarrhea than breastfed one

  • Expense of baby milks affects all family members family, impoverishing those already poor

  • In developing world formula is over-diluted to make it last longer

    • can cause malnutrition

  • UNICEF: 1.5 million infants die annually because they are not breastfed


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2. Apartheid in South Africa more likely to die from diarrhea than breastfed one

Sullivan Principles

  • Prohibited GM from following apartheid laws

  • Required non-segregation in company operations

  • Required equal pay for equal work regardless of race


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3. Grape boycott Africa

  • 1964 United Farm Workers Association (UFW) formed

  • 1965 Filipino and Mexican-American farm workers called a strike against table grape farmers in Delano, CA

    • Low wages

    • Poor working/living conditions

  • UFW president Cesar Chavez called for national boycott of table grapes


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  • By 1969 sale of table grapes had nearly vanished Africa

  • US Defense Department had to step in to help growers

  • increased shipment of table grapes to soldiers in Vietnam by 2 million pounds over previous year

  • Boycott ended in 1970 when first union contracts were signed


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Are boycotts effective? Africa

  • Survey of business leaders indicate they consider it more effective than other consumer techniques

    • E.g., lobbying, letter writing campaigns, class action suits

  • Grape boycott succeeded

    • As did subsequent 16-year effort to eliminate pesticides harmful to worker health

      • 1984-2000

  • Divestment in South Africa succeeded


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Ongoing boycotts Africa

  • Ethical Consumer


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