Boycotting: Who It Really Impacts

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

We’ve all seen emails and Facebook posts telling us about some large corporation’s latest moral or social misstep and requiring that, as conscientious consumers, we take a stand and boycott their business. Perhaps you always dismiss these as annoying, or maybe you’ve felt concerned enough about a particular issue to participate in a boycott at some point.  Whatever the case, have you ever wondered if boycotts really make a difference or accomplish their goal? Here are a few interesting facts I learned as I attempted to answer this question for myself.

Boycotts Hurt Small Businesses 
Except in the case of small, localized boycotts, most boycott campaigns are aimed at large corporations such as recently targeted BP gas, Starbucks, or Chick-fil-A.  What the consumer is often unaware of is that refusing to buy products from these corporations, especially in the case of BP gas, directly affects small, privately-owned businesses that have nothing to do with the offensive actions, but simply carry the company name. Boycotting them doesn’t hurt the company at large, but rather small business owners. This creates a chain reaction that doesn’t result in the intended action, but affects the entire local economy of supply and demand.

Boycotts Hurt Employees
If a business is being boycotted aggressively enough, it will feel the impact. But how it reacts to the impact of lost sales isn’t usually what consumers like you and I were hoping for. Instead of cutting their own salaries, corporate heads will cut their workforce to account for the losses. This means fewer hours or loss of employment in an economy that’s difficult to find a job in.  Think about this possible affect the next time you consider joining a boycott.

Boycotts Hurt You, The Consumer 
If you boycott a business, product, or service in order to place pressure on CEOs, you are choosing to make life more difficult for yourself, too. You might have to drive farther, which means more spent on gas, to shop at a different store or eat at a different restaurant.  You may also be spending more money on the products you’re buying instead of what you’re boycotting. You may think this is all worth it to make your point, but what if the point isn’t really made? Then it’s only impacting you, as the consumer.  What’s more, pressure from boycotts may not only cause a company to lay off workers; they may also raise their prices. This affects not only you, but every other consumer.

So is it worth it to boycott? You can choose for yourself, based on how strongly you disapprove of a businesses’s actions, but keep in mind that there is always more to the picture than just the business, and your actions can make a worse, instead of a better, impact. There are many other ways to voice your opinion to a company about their decisions or policies, such as:

  • Writing formal complaint letters
  • Raising funds to support the opposite of their stance and making them aware of it
  • Discouraging people from buying stock in the company, which hurts the dividends of those high on the corporate ladder
  • Writing to a congressman or becoming involved in a lobby group

It’s good to remember that boycotting is a political right we are privileged to exercise, and we should use it cautiously and as effectively as possible.

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