Ethics of Brand Boycotts

| June 20, 2019

Brand boycotts seem to pop up more and more frequently, both in real life and on social media.

“Have you heard what [insert business] supports? I’m never shopping there again.”

In social-media-driven politics, this phrase gets thrown around often.

Most recently, abortion has been at the center of these boycotts. Several Hollywood favorites threatened to use their influence to boycott the Georgia film industry because of strict abortion laws passed in the state. A donor of Alabama University also called for a boycott of the school because of the anti-abortion laws passed in Alabama.

Many people seem to think boycotts are the answer to political issues. These boycotts, however,punish people who have nothing directly to do with the controversy at hand.

The individuals who benefit from Georgia’s film industry are not the ones who voted on the abortion bill. The film crew did not sign it into law. Similarly, Alabama University had nothing to do with the heartbeat bill their state passed—but they may receive the consequences.

Since brands and businesses have become more open about what political controversies they support, brand boycotts have become the weapon of choice for average (and famous) citizens.

Nike, Starbucks, Target, and Chik-Fil-A have all been recipients of boycotts at one time or another. Whether through policies these brands enacted or people/causes they chose to support, brands are getting involved in politics. This involvement naturally has consequences—both good and bad.

While boycotting a brand or business feels like a powerful social justice move, it garners more “likes” than change. The people who will suffer from these boycotts are probably not the ones who can (or will) make the changes demanded.

I think boycotting a brand can be a personal moral choice (“Do I feel the need to support/not support this company because of their stance?”). However, brand boycotts as a social justice movement seem to be more of a popular trend than a personal choice. Before you tweet your next brand boycott, weigh your motivations.

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