Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Business Boycotting Green

This story has also been syndicated by the wonderful non-profit group Your Olive Branch.org

One of the most effective ways a consumer can vote is with their wallet. Choosing to spend or not to spend with a business is a determinant of the business' success. However, recent calls for the boycott of BP gas stations proved to be more harmful to the small business owner than the corporate entity. A boycott, as defined by Mirriam-Webster, is "to engage in a concerted refusal to have dealings with (as a person, store, or organization) usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions". Simply translated, this is marketplace democracy in action - consumers voting with their dollars for social and economic change.

Organized boycotts are only one way a consumer has to "cast a ballot" of approval or disapproval. Some interesting facts about boycotts, from Green America's Boycott Organizer guide:

The term originated in Ireland in 1780 when English estate manager Charles Cunningham Boycott was "boycotted" by famine-threatened Irish farmers for refusing to lower rents. Since then, boycotts have become an important part of American history, used to protest everything from government involvement in industries to unfair labor practices...
Any concerned group can call a boycott. Groups have been more successful in calling and executing boycotts than individuals because there is strength in numbers...

An increasing number of environmental groups are using boycotts as a means of influencing corporations and effecting change.
Sometimes, a business may be guilty of carelessness or thoughtlessness, versus outright maliciousness. We would like to see consumers first take a chance informing the company before organizing a boycott. We read and experience unfriendly business practices on a regular basis. Our Daily Green recently read about some transgressions involving a major department store as well as a national restaurant chain. Both examples involve less than green practices which need to be rectified. Is it better for the consumer to contact the company and give them a chance to rectify the wrong or to simply stop shopping there?

After personally spending 15 years in retail, it's industry knowledge that the customer to worry about is the one who says nothing, but to treat the complaint as an opportunity. For every complaint, there are another 10 customers who say nothing. As an activist and concerned shopper, there is more to gain by voicing concerns versus a simple boycott. A voice of dissention is worth 10 silent voices.

Caring for Our BlessingsOur Daily Green increasingly hopes to be a venue for positive change rather than negative. Rather than discouraging consumers from shopping certain venues, instead we would like to encourage better places to shop and thereby vote with our dollars. Responsible Shopper is a comprehensive search engine to check any company before making a purchase to determine if their policies fit in personal philosophies. We prefer to encourage our readers to find where they'd like to shop versus telling them where not to shop. Blindly boycotting a company can often hurt the very folks we encourage.

Have you ever stopped shopping somewhere? What were your reasons? Did you make them known to those in charge?

3 comments :

Beth Sommerer said...

Oftentimes it depends on the particular problem. Customer service issues can be resolved by going to a different cashier's line, speaking to a manager, or writing a letter to the district office.

As for issues with "big box stores" or national companies whose corporate choices we don't approve of, we could try to find locally owned, or small business alternatives. This, however, would mean having to pay a little more.

I think it all depends on what we value as individuals. If we strictly value pricing over service, safe and sustainable environmental policy, and equitable corporate policy, then we get what we deserve and what we've been getting over the last decade or so.

Thankful Heart said...

Great post, FreshGreenKim. And thanks for the buzz! You did a wonderful job.

├Âkostrom said...

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