Who Do You Boycott?

I fell in love today. Like all great romances, it began unexpectedly, suddenly, completely; I was wandering aimlessly through David Jones, not a store I frequent, when I passed the Alannah Hill display, and saw a cardigan. A frilly, polka-dotted, fabulously frou-frou cardigan, at 50% off, which whilst making it still more expensive than I like to spend on my clothes, placed the thing from ridiculous into possible. I still had doubts about blowing so much money on something for myself though, and as I am incapable of making a decision without getting social media in on it, I took my dilemma to Twitter. Should I get the cardigan or not? Most people said go for it, but one reply said she wouldn't buy anything from Alannah Hill, on principle; following Ms Hill's ill-conceived remarks, following accusations against then-David Jones CEO Mark McInnes of sexual harassment, that she wished McInnes had sexually harassed her. I was mindful of it, and not particularly comfortable. I wasn't entirely sure, though, that buying and wearing the cardigan was sending a message that I believe sexual harassment is okay. I did get to thinking about boycotts, though, and whether as individual consumers there's any point.

I try to be an ethically concious shopper. I'm not as vigilant as I should be. Sometimes it's easy to have a direct impact - I don't buy cage eggs, so we know that the chickens are not directly suffering for our scrambled. Other times, things get a little more abstract. The NestlĂ© boycott has been going on for over thirty years, and has so far failed to have much impact - you can say to yourself "well, even if my purchasing decisions don't make a difference, at least I know the company isn't getting any of my money". But then you think of all the other crappy companies out there...you can't boycott everyone who deals with everyone...and next thing you know, you're eating a KitKat and it tastes like guilt. 

Part of it's lazy. I do the boycotts which are easy for me. I boycott anyone that has anything to do with gambling, but as I'm not interested in the things people gamble on (well, apart from the election, but would you really) that doesn't require much sacrifice from me. And I won't read any NewsLtd paper. Won't even take them if they are free, won't look at a copy left on the train. But again, since I'd rather read BabyG's dirty nappies than the Daily Telegraph - and they are less full of crap - not a hardship. But there's when it gets tricky. According to the Ethical Shopping Guide, Coca-Cola have sold toxic waste as fertiliser in India, been responsible for human rights abuses in Colombia, and failed to take action to prevent deaths whilst working in Darfur. Pretty shocking stuff, right? I should boycott Coca-Cola and all their products. But all their products includes most bottled drinks and post mix, as well as tinned fruit and jam. Saving the world is all well and good, but no one wants to be thirsty do they?

That's what it comes down to, really. I don't take action on boycotts like I should, and then I feel spoilt, lazy, part of the problem. So what about you, readers? Do you boycott companies on ethical grounds? Shop at will with a clear conscience? Or are you caught in a murky middle ground like me?


  1. Some whole industries are boycott worthy, like things that hurt animals. Horseracing, bullfighting, and cow tipping.

  2. agree that individual boycotts aren't really the answer. you're effectively punishing yourself by committing to more expensive and often inferior products. if you're properly passionate about a topic, get involved.

  3. This would be such an easy subject to be flippant about. Yet there is a serious base to the question. I am a non-boycotter yet I do try to work actively for change. Unless there is a major social move on a boycott, it only affects the boycotter. Now I'm confused on the ethics of my position :)

    1. It does only affect the boycotter, but I do like the idea that at least XYZ evil entity is not getting my money.

  4. I boycott bottled water - I wish I could convince my family to do the same. I object to paying at least $10 a litre for the same stuff that comes out of the tap for a little more than a dollar a tonne - not to mention the amount of PET that finishes up in landfill, no matter how good we feel about recycling.

    BTW - like what you've done with the format!

    1. I do buy bottled water - but I reuse the bottle for a few weeks. I bought one of those metal reusable bottles but at $25 it didn't last much longer than a PET bottle. I wish there was some alternative.


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