Boycott. Support. You Decide.
Mark your calendars. Our Food For Thought. summer meetup will be picnic-style in Central Park August 28th. More info to come!
A couple of years ago I had heard through the grapevine that the CEO of New Balance sneakers had donated a hefty amount of money to the former President's campaign. I loved New Balance sneakers but was super quick to boycott purchasing new footwear from the company. Years later I find myself in the bread aisle in the same position buying hamburger buns and deciding if I should boycott Martin's Potato Rolls.
The famous burger bun company came under fire because the executive chair donated over $100k to a far-right Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate. I don't live in Pennsylvania so the politics there wouldn't affect me personally, but should I still choose to boycott because it doesn't align with my own beliefs?
This moral quandary has left me wondering about how quick some are (including myself) to dismiss and boycott brands because of the political beliefs of their company’s leadership when in fact there’s so much more going on with our favorite brands besides their political leanings. Here are some other questionable products that may give you a second thought:
The Bigger Picture
For decades the vanilla bean industry has used exploitative tactics on farmers and child labor for pure profit. The second most expensive spice in the world is mostly harvested in Madagascar and has left most farmers in cycles of debt while resorting to using children to harvest the precious crops.
In 2016 there was a boycott of the brand by farmworkers citing major safety concerns and wage theft. Eventually, the fruit farms and the farmworkers came to an agreement after most farmworkers walked off the job and protested daily.
The company has been called out for years for its exploitative practices. From using slave-like labor to harvest Brazilian coffee beans to using child labor for cocoa beans on the Ivory Coast to monopolizing water sources for bottled water production. The company has its fair share of documented labor violations and seems to be a dark horse parading around as guilt-free fun in the form of Kit Kats and Crunch bars.
Sometimes we can feel helpless when discovering that so many of the things we consume come from businesses with unethical practices and standards. Can boycotting a company actually do anything? Well, for me it did when I stopped shopping at Amazon.
I Boycotted. Now What?
I quit shopping at Amazon last year after noticing that I was buying nothing of value on the website. Yes, shopping through the website is easier than buying locally, but anytime I was bored or in need of the slightest thing I would instantly open the app and start filling my cart. Amazon has become embedded into the fabric of our everyday lives. From the shopping links that are innocuously scattered throughout websites to the congested roads that carry all of our online shopping to our front doors. The company single-handedly won the Pandemic when folks were told to stay home and made all their purchases through the online retailer.
What really cemented my choice in quitting Amazon was how I felt about the company in general. They constantly block employees from unionizing, they undercut small businesses by providing the lowest price and fastest shipping, and they notoriously undervalue authors whether published traditionally or on their own. What put the nail in the proverbial coffin for me was when the company's former CEO told reporters after he led a group of people out to space on a multi-million dollar funded ride during the height of the pandemic, "I want to thank every Amazon employee, and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this...thank you from the bottom of my heart very much".
This comment struck a nerve with me and made me evaluate my purchasing power. Maybe canceling my $119 Prime subscription wasn’t going to make a dent in the billions of dollars the company rakes in each year, but it did push me to buy locally and to buy less. It gave me a newfound sense of awareness that I didn’t have before when I was pushing the Buy Now button. I completely understand that not everyone has the luxury to live in a city as I do and Amazon may be your only choice for the delivery of goods to your home. By no means am I telling folks to cancel their subscriptions because of me, but I do think we all collectively have the power in our hands to change things even if it's a slight change within ourselves.
There is a lot of information available out there to educate ourselves about the business practices of the companies we support with our money. Even if we decide to continue using and consuming particular products or brands because we don’t have the option to stop doing so at least we can be better-informed consumers and citizens of the world by simply researching things for ourselves.
Fun For Thought.
This weekend I celebrated my birthday with a fun trip away with friends. It was a great escape from the hot muggy city.
Paid Subscribers: I’m back to two newsletters a week! The next stop in the Eating A-Z series will be the Central African Republic this Friday!
Cook. Eat. Repeat.