American activists have long operated under the opinion that a successful company owes it to themselves, as well as the world, to operate in an ethical, humane, and environmentally responsible manner. Few companies are blameless when it comes to conforming to all of these moral standards, but some are worse than others. The outcome of unacceptable business practices are sometimes deadly, sometimes unspeakable, and other times good for a dark laugh at the murky depths to which our worldwide culture has allowed itself to sink.
Boycotts have conventionally been society’s greatest means for changing these companies and thus improving the well being of the Earth and its people. Some boycotts work and others don’t. Here is a list which explores a wide range of successful and unsuccessful boycotts and sheds light on the misdirected efforts world businesses employ just to turn a buck.
10. Adidas Football Cleats and Shoes
Despite increasing complaints from their consumers (or potential consumers) the Adidas shoe company continues to use kangaroo skin in the construction of a specific line of football cleats. What started as a small consumer boycott is rapidly turning into a nationwide scandal. So far, Adidas has seen no substantial repercussions, but many individuals in the company are amazed that an ethical error on only one model of shoe has the potential to cause such turmoil. (Image: planetarybargains.com.)
9. Kahrs Company
This wholesale and retail organization is being boycotted for the distribution of Merbau flooring, a wood floor product that is often the subject of many environmental debates. While the company has previously stated that their Merbau is not purchased from companies exploiting the Indonesian rainforest, recent disputes over the Karhs Company’s vagueness as to the origin of their wood has sparked an environmental outrage, so much so that many individuals are boycotting the company’s flooring products altogether.
Karhs does not seem to be concerned about this. Business theorists have speculated that “not enough people could possibly know or care about this boycott to make it work.” One particularly well-spoken blogger is quoted as saying, “Putting a boycott on a specific type of wood floor has got to be the dumbest shit I have ever heard,” a revealing and insightful statement to say the least.
Contrary to what one might think, a bulldozer is not exclusively a construction-oriented device. A bulldozer, while often used in the creation of a highway or new home, has tremendous damaging power and can be used to accomplish incredible terrain-altering feats. For instance, just one bulldozer can level more terrain in one long work day than a Daisy Cutter bomb. And what’s more, no one will arrest you for driving a bulldozer on the back of your tractor trailer. Try hijacking a military explosive to do the same job and see how far you get.
Israel realized the startling capability of this US-based company’s construction products and implored them to sell some of their machines to the Israeli military for use as “Armored Construction Equipment.” Caterpillar agreed, furnishing the bulldozers and equipment, which would later be used as a militaristic tool to destroy the homes, farmland, and infrastructure of Occupied Palestinian Territories. Sometimes while they were occupied. A boycott has commenced in defense of the inhumanity of Caterpillar’s executive decision to directly participate in questionable militaristic affairs. (Image: indymedia.ie.)
7. Chevron –Texaco
A boycott against Texaco has been initiated due to the company’s major role in the contamination of the Ecuadorian ecosystem and their unwillingness to cease business over the questionable practices of the Ecuadorian government, who discloses inhabited lands as “vacant” and allows drilling in close proximity, sometimes on top of native settlements.
The Ecuadorian government, while not directly responsible for Texaco’s use of faulty and/or “leaky” drilling methods, is responsible for the use of military troops on their own indigenous population, a practice that has raised red flags in activist groups around the world. The Texaco boycott is the result of virtually every conceivable infraction by Texaco concerning unethical practice, greed, and non-environmentally friendly drilling tactics. The solution: stop buying gas from them. (Image: earthfirst.com)
6. Herbal Essences
We’ve come a long way from boycotting English tea in the 1770s. Currently, amidst this world economic crisis, when companies are scrimping and scraping to save a buck and morality and conventionally sound business practices are flying out the window, boycotts on items as innocent as Herbal Essences shampoo are taking the forefront of consumer activism. Herbal Essences, coined “Hurtful Essences” by boycotters, is the subject of animal activist groups around the world due to the company’s animal testing policy, which is somewhat ambiguous and does not deny the use of animals in the creation of their products. (Image: hurtfulessences.org.)
Just when you thought that bringing your own bag to the grocery store could only save the environment, you find out that Tesco, a company who is not operating extensively in the United States (yet), is putting computer chips and tracking devices in their plastic grocery bags and using them to spy on their consumers.
This process, termed Radio Frequency Identification (RFI), involves a team of marketers, computer experts, and statisticians who monitor where the products go, how frequently, and which products are purchased by which return customers. RFI chips have recently been introduced to private consumer items like wallets, pants, belts, and even underwear. The information gathered is invaluable to Tesco. The moral question of most consumers, specifically those inciting a boycott, is whether Tesco has the right to do this. The answer, most feel, is no. So remember, next time your underwear feels a bit out of place, next time the “tag itches” or the “seam comes loose,” check inside for your new computerized friend… perhaps one day you’ll even find a camera…
Side note: Tesco is also on a boycott list in China for selling live turtles, frogs, and tortoises in Chinese retail stores where no animal welfare laws exist. I wonder if those poor tortoises are gagging on pea-sized computer chips shoved down their throats, or if the frogs are shimmering bright green from some sort of radioactive tracking goop. Remember, no matter how tempting it seems and no matter how desperate you may be to impress your loved ones, DO NOT accept the complimentary “glows-for-fun” tree frog at the checkout counter of your local department store.
Feeling Blue Seeing Red has called a boycott of Wal-Mart stores, as if enough people don’t already hate them (even though they may shop there religiously). The group is quoted as initiating the boycott on the grounds of “transgressions [made by Wal-Mart]of local, state and U. S. laws, anti-union activities, support of overseas sweat shops, and adjusting its retail philosophy to accord with social conservative priorities.” With a laundry list of what some would call “inconsequential” infractions behind them, it is painfully obvious that Wal-Mart execs aren’t losing sleep over this one. (Image: mustaphawear.com.)
In addition to issues concerning this company’s eagerness to build and sell cars that are known to have multiple deadly or potentially hazardous defects, recent reports listing businesses who have failed to sever relations with Burma (a nation which is controlled by a tyrannical government and employs the use of a shooting gallery of unethical, inhumane, and non-environmentally sound operations) have listed Toyota as a player in the continuation of the corrupt Burmese economy.
Officials at Toyota stated last year that their company has only sold roughly 40 vehicles within the nation’s borders, all of which were to embassies controlled and owned by other nations operating within said country. These 40 sales, Toyota claims, do not count as sales to Burmese people. While many agree with this statement, others argue that Toyota is still affiliated with Myanmar, a car company who does extensive business within the borders of Burma.
A somewhat underground boycott against Toyota has been in effect for several years in hopes of persuading the company to retract all business from the corrupt nation and focus instead on its primary markets (the United States and Oriental nations).
In the height of the post-911 pandemonium and America’s infamous “we hate French people” and “Freedom Fries” campaigns, the tendency of the American Right was to take patriotic boycotting as far and as high as their raised pitchforks could carry it. Boycotts which could be likened to shooting a BB gun at a detonating nuclear warhead were instigated by activist individuals (generally conservatives) who felt that certain widely respected and acclaimed US companies and organizations were unpatriotic and even anti-American.
One such boycott, albeit only mildly successful (and the butt of many liberalist jokes), was called “FireHollywood.” FireHolloywood is the standing boycott of a slew of Hollywood filmmakers and musicians between 2003 and the present. Such actors and filmmakers include Tommy-Lee Jones, Keanu Reeves, Norm Macdonald, Gary Oldman, and countless others, basically anyone involved in the contemporary film industry save for R. Lee Ermey.
The group went so far as to plead to the Attorney General of the United States to try Michael Moore on the grounds of treason, a case that never quite made it to court.
1. Britain’s East India Company
The boycott of the East India Company is without question the most notorious boycott to take place on US soil. The East India Tea company, on the verge of bankruptcy due to low sales in England, organized a deal with the British government that would give them exclusive rights to distribute to the nation’s settlements in the New World. In an effort to save this business, which was a key player in the British economy, the government allowed East India Company to forgo paying the traditional taxes imposed on colonial merchants. These merchants, who conventionally served as middlemen in the tea trade, were undersold by Easy India Company due to their ability to slash prices in lieu of the unconventional tax break.
The middlemen were ticked off beyond words and so donned masks, war paint, and raided tea ships under the cover of darkness. This destructive effort against East India Company and the British government is referred to as the Boston Tea Party. It is the most infamous display of product boycotting by the American people to this day. Its roots in the British government’s bold act of business-related favouritism are proof that historically not every economic stimulus package has the people’s best interest at heart.
by Jesse Stretch
Please visit http://www.JesseStretch.com to find out more about this talented author and his publications.