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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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“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
  • 1880 Boycott evicted tenant farmers
  • Tenants convinced Boycott’s employees to desert him
“Boycotts are as American as apple pie.”
  • 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    • Act repealed a year later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
three characteristics of consumer boycotts
Three characteristics of consumer boycotts
  • 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
types of boycotts
Types of Boycotts
  • Commodity boycotts


  • Brand-name or single-firm boycotts
  • Complete boycott


  • Partial boycott
Negative boycott


  • Positive boycott
    • whitelist
    • buycott
    • girlcott
    • procott
    • anti-boycott
    • reverse boycott
Instrumental boycott


  • Expressive boycott
    • “Buy Nothing Day”
    • TV Turnoff
Non-surrogate boycotts


  • Surrogate boycotts
    • Travel boycotts
    • Headquarters boycotts
Primary boycott


  • Secondary boycott
consumer economic boycotts
Consumer Economic Boycotts
  • 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
other goals
Other goals
  • Environmental
  • Labor
  • Animal rights
    • Animal testing/cosmetics & drugs
    • Treatment of food animals
  • Other social
    • Health
    • Community
  • Political
historically noteworthy boycotts 1 nestle
Historically noteworthy boycotts: 1. 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
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
2 apartheid in south africa
2. Apartheid in South Africa

Sullivan Principles

  • Prohibited GM from following apartheid laws
  • Required non-segregation in company operations
  • Required equal pay for equal work regardless of race
By 1986 172 of 280 American companies in South Africa had signed agreement
  • 1987 Sullivan declared experiment a failure and called for withdrawal from South Africa
Boycotts of companies continuing to do business in South Africa
  • Universities and other institutions pressured to divest shares of stock in such companies
3 grape boycott
3. Grape boycott
  • 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
By 1969 sale of table grapes had nearly vanished
  • 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
are boycotts effective
Are boycotts effective?
  • 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
Nestle boycott partially successful
  • Boycott of states did not result in passage of Equal Rights Amendment
  • Other successful boycotts
ongoing boycotts
Ongoing boycotts
  • Ethical Consumer