land-based Boycott Watch and consults
for businesses on boycott prevention
and crisis management, says boycotts
rarely succeed and tend to blow over
quickly. While he doesn’t discourage
political activism by businesspeople, he
certainly advises against taking strong
public stands on hot-button issues.
“As a businessperson, when you get
involved in the hot-button political or
social issues, you run the risk of alienating half of your customers. You may
please half the people, but in the long
run it’s not a good business strategy,”
Involvement in local politics and
weighing in on significant local causes
can be ways for small businesses to
demonstrate civic involvement and
to enhance their profiles in the community.
“Businesses usually look good supporting the local school or teacher
initiatives and especially sponsoring
youth sports…The team photo on the
wall, with or without a trophy, is good
for business. It says the company supports the community while avoiding
controversy at the same time,” Taub
wrote on his website boycottwatch.org.
When boycotts are organized, Taub
said, they often target corporations or
brands, but can have collateral impact
on small businesses and their employees. So, for example, when a particular
brand of gasoline is targeted for a boycott for one reason or another, it is the
station owners, not the oil companies,
that feel the pinch.
“A boycott of a gas brand will hurt
the people who work at the local store
and nobody else,” he said.
A Positive Thing?
Most often, boycott threats harm no
one. And, in some cases, they have actually been good for business.
Last year, for example, Wisconsin-
based Kwik Trip convenience stores
were added to a list of companies
threatened with boycotts by public em-
ployee unions that were seeking to re-
call Governor Scott Walker. Walker an-
gered the unions by proposing changes
to the collective bargaining agreement
for state workers.
Special Interest Platforms
Boycotts have been around in this
country since colonial times when one
of history’s best-known boycott initiatives took place: The Boston Tea Party,
which protested high taxes and hastened the Revolutionary War.
Today, most boycotts are more about
getting attention for special interests
than they are about forcing businesses
to change their practices or policies.
Boycotts have been called in recent
years against Starbucks for its treatment of Ethiopian coffee farmers,
cosmetic companies that use animal
testing, Kellogg Company for using genetically engineered sugar beets and
many, many others.
Sometimes, corporations set policies
knowing full well they will anger certain segments of the population. Such
was the case when Starbucks, Nike,
Microsoft and other companies announced their support for legislation
to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington State earlier this year.
As a businessperson,
when you get involved
in the hot-button
political or social
issues, you run the risk
of alienating half of
your customers. You
may please half the
people, but in the long
run it’s not a good