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Boycotts – Message in a Wallet

Boycotts have a long history of being a catalyst for social change.  Often as consumers, we forget that we have power to create change. The purchasing choices we make or avoid can encourage manufacturers and retailers to rethink design, packaging, toxicity, safety and environmental impact of products.

Retailers and manufacturers need to sell products. When we buy a product, we essentially are saying “yes’ to more of the product being manufactured. What if you don’t like what the company is doing? What if you are concerned about over-packaged products or that the product is not built to last (planned obsolescence) or it cannot be repaired. What actions can you do besides complaining to friends and family? What can you do that conveys your concerns to companies and create pressure for change?

Organized boycotts of products or companies can be the message that you and others send with your wallets to highlight your concerns.

Organizations like Greenpeace and PETA have successfully organized boycotts that have lead to changes. For years PETA and other animal rights organizations were highly concerned for the well-being of orcas used at Sea World. Under pressure from activists and declining sales, Sea World Entertainment Inc. announced that it will be ending its theatrical orca shows and the orca breeding program. In 2009, Kimberley- Clarke ( Kleenex, Cottonelle) released an environmental fibre policy that governs how it will conserve forests and support sustainable forestry and use more recycled fibre as a result of public pressure from five years of public campaigns by Greenpeace.

Boycotts can rapidly grow with social media interactions. Grab Your Wallet is a grassroots campaign directed at the Ivanka Trump brand, products and the stores carrying the products. #baycott is part of the Grab Your Wallet campaign targeted to Hudson Bay Company to drop Ivanka Trump products. The goal of the #grabyourwallet boycott is to “movitate companies to stop doing business with the Trump family.” When companies stop doing business with the Trumps consumers promise to return to company.

Boycotts are often used with other communication campaigns like letter writing campaigns or media protests.

Boycotts are marketplace democracy in action.

Any group or individual can call a boycott. Generally boycotts have greater success when there are a greater number of participants.

Ethical Consumer has a great guide on how to set up a boycott .

Looking over the successful campaigns like Grab Your Wallet or campaigns by PETA emphasizes the need for a clear goal and a target. For instance the goal may be to convince a supermarket to stop selling X Brand of bananas in shrink wrap.

Boycotts can work. Is it time to use them to drive for Zero Waste changes?

What product or company would be on your list to target?

Zero Waste Canada would like to hear your thoughts and ideas.

It is time we used our power as consumers wisely. We can send a message with our wallets.