The Power of a Boycott

While quoting Wikipedia is not considered academic, I like their definition of boycott:

boycott is an act of voluntary and intentional abstention from using, buying, or dealing with a person, organization, or country as an expression of protest, usually for socialpolitical, or environmental reasons. The purpose of a boycott is to inflict some economic loss on the target, or to indicate a moral outrage, to try to compel the target to alter an objectionable behavior.

There are many examples of boycotts leading to massive social change:  the Montgomery bus boycott, the boycott of British goods in India and the great Salt March, the grape boycott of the United Farm Workers, the divestment from business interest in South Africa, as well as a number of consumer-driven boycotts aimed at promoting fair business practices.

Ethical Consumer reports that in 1791, after Parliament refused to abolish slavery, there was a massive boycott of sugar produced by slaves which led to a drop in sales of sugar between a third and a half. “In an early example of fair trade, shops began selling sugar guaranteed to be have been produced by ‘free men’.”

My point here is that we can rant and rave all we want about the problems that plague society, but when we log off our social media sites and go to the store or the mall without consciousness and support the very entities that we purport to be fighting against, they win.  When we succumb to capitalist greed because we want that latest greatest thing at the lowest cost possible, we unconsciously support a system that preys on low and middle income people.  The value menu saves you a buck on a burger, but what are we putting in our bodies.  Excessive packaging can makes products more attractive, but what is it doing to the environment?  We choose chemically-based products and pesticide-ridden and GMO-altered foods, because of cost, convenience, and because everyone else is buying them.  I know, because I make these same decisions on a daily basis, often with a great lack of consciousness myself.

But as Shelly and I were sitting on our balcony sipping our coffee discussing the weight of the world as we normally do every morning, we began thinking we do have the power collectively to make change.  We can use perhaps the most lethal weapon available to us, our dollar.  When consumer spending habits change, businesses respond.  It may cost a little more, but ultimately, if it becomes regular practice, prices may in fact level off.

As an example, Campbell’s has recently launched an organic line of soup.  They state that organic eating is top of the mind year round and that 53% of Americans ages 18-29 are actively trying to include organic foods into their diet.  A 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity CSR study found “Global consumers have high demands for companies to address social and environmental issues, but they now also understand they have an obligation to make change, as well. It’s critical for companies to understand the nuanced drivers, barriers and opportunities that resonate among discerning global audiences.”  Stated more simply, businesses will respond if we put our dollar where our mouth is.  While capitalism may prevail, we have the power collectively to control it.

So, spend with mindfulness, reuse, recycle, walk more, drive less, plant a garden, support local organic farmers & small businesses, remove chemicals from our homes, incorporate essential oils into your life, use sustainable products, and boycott when necessary.  Boycotts can be used on both sides of the aisle as well, as evidence by the recent #boycotthawaii campaign by Trump supporters in response to a Hawaii’s federal judge requesting a restraining order to put a hold on the the revised travel ban.  Such a boycott is aimed at hurting Hawai’i’s tourism economy, its largest single contributor to the state’s gross domestic product.  I personally hope the boycott is successful.  Tourism is not sustainable for the people of Hawaii or our ‘āina.  If successful, this boycott could help us better understand how we can have a more self-sustaining economy that is in line with the many values that the people of Hawai’i hold near and dear to their hearts, mālama ‘āina, mālama honua, aloha, kuleana, and po’okela, to name a few.  So yes, #boycotthawaii!



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