Do Boycotts Really Work?

By Megan Vick


It seems like every decision we are faced with today is politically charged. Whether it’s Chick-fil-A, Monsanto, ConAgra, GoDaddy, or some other company, there seems to be a good reason for everyone to avoid buying from any given brand. With so many large corporations who own other companies, is there anything your dollars will really do by boycotting something?

Boycott Protesters


What is a Boycott?

A boycott is the act of abstaining from a brand, product, person, or organization as a way of protesting. The name comes from Captain Charles Boycott in County Mayo, Ireland. After poor harvests, locals shunned Captain Boycott as a way to protest the rent prices in a non-violent way. After a few short days, the name “boycott” caught on to describe the action.  Boycotts are legal and non-violent ways of protest, but the question remains: are they effective?



There are many examples of boycotts working for the desired outcome. Organized boycotts are, by far, more effective than an individual boycott. In 2008, consumers boycotted DKNY and Donna Karan until the company agreed to change labor standards. In 2010, United Students Against Sweatshops boycotted Fruit of the Loom and terminated contracts with the company. This was in response to Fruit of the Loom closing a Honduran factory after the workers had unionized. This example was, perhaps, one of the most successful in recent history.

Currently, you’ve probably heard about the boycotts against Monsanto and other companies that are against the labeling of GMOs in food products. California’s Proposition 37 is legislation Californians will vote on in November. This act will require companies who wish to sell their product in California (which is everyone!) to label any ingredients as Genetically Modified. Consumers believe by boycotting companies against Prop 37, there will be increased pressure for those companies to label GMO ingredients.


It’s Up to You

Although there are several boycott success stories, there are many examples of boycotts not working. The most effective boycotts have been when a group or organization issues a genuine boycott for a specific reason and has a specific end result.

Boycotts are a great way to vote with your dollars. In today’s world, voting with your dollars seems to be the only true vote that counts. Whether or not a boycott is successful is up to you and how you can help support it. If you believe in a cause, there is a good chance your like-minded friends will support the effort too. Share the cause on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. If there is something about which you are passionate and you can’t find a movement, start one! Start a petition or join up with an organization that may be willing to support your boycott. At the end of the day, the choices are yours.