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The Economic Boycott: Is It Moral? Does It Work?

A significant number of corporations lend support and legitimacy to Planned Parenthood through their corporate philanthropic programs. The Corporate Funding Project (CFP) has used the economic boycott as a key part of its effort to convince more than 231 corporations to stop funding Planned Parenthood, the world's leading abortion-promoting group. The organizers of this effort attempt to convince executives of corporations confirmed as Planned Parenthood donors; but when that fails, the economic boycott is utilized. 

What Is An Economic Boycott? 

The Albert Einstein Institution defines an economic boycott as, "The withdrawal or withholding of economic cooperation in the form of buying, selling, or handling of goods or services, often accompanied by efforts to induce others to do likewise. It may be practiced on local, regional, national, or international levels." 

An article in Freedom Daily quoted Gene Sharp, author of The Politics of Nonviolent Action. Sharp defined a boycott as "the refusal to continue or to undertake certain economic relationships, especially the buying, selling, or handling of goods and services." 

The economic boycott has often been associated with left wing politics. This may be a reason why conservatives and others overlook or dismiss boycotting as a strategy to achieve their goals. "Most people associate the word 'boycott' with '60s radicals," reported IN Fashion. "But boycotting is a well-respected, effective and legal means of nonviolent protest, as well as a vehicle of change." This fact is now more widely known and accepted than ever before in history. 

Do Boycotts Really Work? 

In another Freedom Daily article, Wendy McElroy said, "The application of boycott in its many forms has been refined and sophisticated through centuries of use. Like any other strategy, boycotting will not address every situation...But the greatest strategic failure is to dismiss it out of hand." 

"Economic boycotts have a long tradition," read an article in South Coast Today. "There were those who argued that the many economic boycotts of South Africa would never work--until apartheid was toppled and the boycotts were given much of the credit." 

Boycotting can bring about two of the most detrimental problems that any corporate executive would prefer to avoid: bad publicity and loss of revenue (in that order). Boycotts succeed in part by "putting a corporation on a defensive footing, generating potentially damaging publicity, and giving its competitors an unearned opportunity," wrote Dale D. Buss in "Ethics and Economics: Holding Corporate America Accountable." 

One poll showed that 78 percent of consumers avoided or refused to buy from certain companies because of negative perceptions. In an­other survey 48 percent said unethical or unlawful business practices played a role in those decisions, reported Buss in Christianity Today

Marshall Glickman wrote that, "A nationwide survey of business executives indicated that they consider boycotts more effective than class-action suits, lobbying and standalone letter writing campaigns. Companies hate the loss of sales and negative publicity these campaigns bring--an image problem that...can dog them for decades, even after they've reformed." 

Glickman said "the truth is, once you know about a boycott, it is pretty simple to follow. And the good news is that when boycotts are well organized, they can really work." 

A boycott will generally fail when it has unfocused leadership, employs inconsistent pressure, has insufficient organization and planning, makes unreasonable demands, or when those who support the cause behind the boycott will not participate. Corporate leaders expect consumers to be apathetic and they believe any boycott will be a short-term irritation at the very worst. Corporate leaders also may count on human weakness and they far too often are not disappointed. But when a boycott is well organized and managed, corporate leaders begin to realize they cannot pretend the action is not happening. 

Activists need to think twice before calling for a boycott. "A boycott should not be utilized on a whim," said Douglas R. Scott, Jr., who as president of Life Decisions International (LDI) has managed a boycott of Planned Parenthood's corporate supporters for nearly two decades. "It should also not be the tool of first resort. A boycott needs to be well-thought-out and corporate leaders must have been given ample information and opportunity to change the offensive practice" before an economic sanction commences. 

Another key problem that can greatly hinder the success of a boycott is second-guessing by participants. Boycott leaders must be trusted to decide when the economic action should cease and what demands the offending corporation must meet before this can occur. If every individual decides what constitutes sufficient grounds to end the action, the corporation may ignore boycott leaders. Unity is essential. If boycott leaders are ignored, a corporation can effectively disregard the economic action itself. This is only possible if the corporation is able to undermine boycott leaders and divide the loyalty of those who should naturally support the effort. 

When groups that have endorsed the boycott effort or whose charter supports the same cause "openly and knowingly begin doing business with targeted corporations, it can have a devastating effect," said Scott. "Not only does it make the boycott laughable to corporate and pro-abortion leaders, it is just one more example of Christians who are not willing to back their words with action." Scott said such failure also serves to discourage others who had been participating in the boycott. 

It is clear that boycotts can be effective. If the strategy did not work, few groups would use it. 

Why Should We Boycott? 

A boycott should only be used for the most serious of reasons. The amount of participants and the dedication with which they participate indicates how seriously they view the evil the boycott seeks to expose and correct. The Corporate Funding Project is one of several projects used by Life Decisions International that addresses the serious issue of abortion. 

In her book Life on the Line, Faye Wattleton, former president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, wrote about the importance of corporate money to the group she had led: "Corporate support was only about 5 percent of our budget, but it meant a great deal to us. The credibility that such endorsements bestowed was at least as valuable as the actual dollars given. It was important that we receive support from every sector of our society--from the kid who sent us a portion of an allowance, to major conglomerates." 

Formalizing a boycott with a specific purpose can increase the effectiveness of this tactic because leverage brought by a large number of participants that is channeled toward a specific goal is difficult to ignore. The boycott gives corporation leaders a concrete, specific behavior that they can change to avoid or reverse the effects of the campaign. 

Are Boycotts Morally Right? 

It is acceptable and reasonable for persons to decide where and when to spend their money and to make it known why they do or do not utilize a particular company's goods or services. Some might consider it improper to withhold trade from a person or company. This can certainly be true. For example it is certainly improper to boycott a street vendor simply because of his or her race. That would be an immoral use of a boycott. While the boycott strategy can, like many good things, be misapplied or done for the wrong reasons, the economic action in and of itself is neither right nor wrong. 

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
- Ephesians 5:11

While this scripture does not directly condone economic boycotts, it clearly gives permission to boycott a product if it has something to do with "fruitless deeds of darkness." (The boycott against Planned Parenthood's corporate supporters has been an excellent tool for exposing the group's evil deeds.) The point of a boycott is not to spitefully punish an entity for its evil deeds as that's in the Hands of God. Instead, its purpose is to refrain from participating in evil. 

William Wilberforce organized one of the most successful Christian boycotts in the late Eighteenth Century. He called for a boycott of sugar in an attempt to end the slave trade in the British colonies. Wilberforce and others knew that slavery was evil and they decided not to buy sugar that was slave-grown. Since that time, many churches, at some point in their histories, have joined in various boycott efforts. 

In boycotting corporate supporters of Planned Parenthood, Christians are, like Wilberforce with the heinous institution of slavery, attempting to eliminate the greatest human rights abuse of our day. 

In his work titled, "Hear No Evil. See No Evil. Support No Evil: Christians & Boycotting," Mark Ritter offers a scenario: 

Imagine this: There is a knock at your door. You answer it and find before you a small boy with a box full of candy. He looks up to you with a sad, street worn look in his eyes and explains that he is selling the candy so that he can go to camp this summer. You naturally feel sorry for the child and want to help him out. The candy is not that expensive and a little more in the house wouldn't hurt. As you browse through the box, you casually ask him, "By the way, what group sponsors you?" The boy looks to you, then answers, "The Hitler Youth Program"... 

You now have a small moral dilemma, but you come to a quick conclusion: Although you want what is best for the child, you realize that, by buying his candy and sending him to camp, you also support the sadistic philosophy and immoral agenda of the Hitler Youth Program...That is abominable; therefore, you cannot buy his candy. 

As Ritter explained, "You've just exercised your right...not to support an evil cause. And, although your heart goes out to the boy, you would probably go to bed that night knowing that what you did was right." Ritter went on to say that the contemporary word for what you had just done is "boycott." 

What Is The Corporate Funding Project (CFP)? 

Managed by Life Decisions International (LDI), the Corporate Funding Project is a boycott against corporations that fund the abortion-committing and abortion-promoting empire, Planned Parenthood.  

On average, 13 corporations per year have stopped funding Planned Parenthood since the CFP began, which thus far has cost Planned Parenthood more than $40 million. Success has rested on prayer and five other key elements: 

Coalition. Some organizations that do not usually play an active role on the abortion issue have endorsed and participated in the CFP. These sympathetic groups see the value of working in coalition. 

Cooperation. The leaders of several organizations (such as Pro-Life Action Ministries, American Life League, Human Life International, Campaign Life Coalition [Canada], and Pro Vita Advisors, among many others) have selflessly advocated participation in the boycott. This cooperation has been critical in spreading the word. 

Dedication. The CFP has been an ongoing boycott that corporate leaders cannot just wait out. Dedication is required by participants and boycott leaders alike, regardless of how long it may take to achieve the goal. 

Reliability. Boycott leaders have expertly and carefully researched corporate involvement with Planned Parenthood. This has created a positive reputation so their research is trusted. 

Standards. Clearly defined, uniformly applied, morally defensible, and wise standards allow corporate leaders to know what philanthropic activity will make them a boycott target and what will release them from such action. 

Many boycotts are less effective because their leaders are not committed to these elements. This results in the perception that a boycott is nothing more than a publicity and fund-raising gimmick. The frequent and short-lived boycotts called by Jesse Jackson are examples. But the foremost strategy of the CFP has always been to change corporate philanthropic policy, regardless of the time it takes or the costs involved. 

Misconceptions 

This section addresses some of the common misconceptions, questions and concerns expressed about the boycott (by both prospective participants and target corporations). 

The boycott will make no difference. 

LDI has documented over 231 corporations that have pledged to no longer support Planned Parenthood. To understand how corporations might see the results of a boycott, look at the economic effects on a larger scale. Suppose just 250,000 boycotters vowed to spend their money elsewhere and they redirected a small figure of $15 per week. That would amount to $3.75 million per week or $195 million a year. That amount is enough to stand any business executive's hair on end and change philanthropic policy. 

Boycotts punish the innocent employees of a targeted corporation. 

LDI does not suggest that people cease working for boycott targets unless their job directly influences corporate profits (cashier at a supermarket versus insurance salesman). Those who remain employed by a boycott target are encouraged to work from the inside to change the philanthropic policy. In many cases, corporations that stopped funding Planned Parenthood did so due to pressure from inside as well as outside the company. The goal is not to punish the employees but to change corporate behavior. If the friendly Christian door-to-door salesman wants you to buy a boycotted product, respectfully explain your commitment to the pro-life cause and urge the salesman to ask the parent corporation to stop funding Planned Parenthood. 

It is unfair to boycott an entire corporation when only one of its subsidiaries is supporting Planned Parenthood. 

Corporations may attempt to avoid the impact of a boycott by blaming its strongest subsidiary for the evil it does. The truth is that the corporate structure makes all subsidiaries part of the same entity. If any part of a corporation is funding Planned Parenthood, all of it must be boycotted. Corporate leaders at the very top cannot be allowed to plead ignorance or powerlessness over the grants made by their subsidiaries. 

The Boycott List is overwhelming. It is impossible to keep up and if everything were to be boycotted, we would go naked and hungry. 

Boycotting companies on The Boycott List is not as overwhelming as it might first appear. The Boycott List comes with a handy Checkbook List. The Checkbook List is a checkbook-size version of The Boycott List and includes the names of corporations and products/services one may encounter while outside the home. Simply read over the Checkbook List and highlight those products/services you may use. Be sure to put the Checkbook List in your car, pocketbook, or checkbook so it is handy when you leave home. 

No one who has been a faithful participant in the boycott has gone naked, hungry or unsheltered. In most cases there are competing products that can be bought in place of those on The Boycott List. CFP guidelines clearly indicate that one should not forgo purchase of a product for which there is serious need and no substitute. The Boycott List is not a call to extreme sacrifice. It is an opportunity to join with like-minded people to encourage the elimination of corporate funding of Planned Parenthood. We are asking you to be a good steward of the resources God has given you. 

A boycotted corporation does support Planned Parenthood, but it represents just a fraction of its annual donations. The corporation also funds pro-life groups. 

Even one penny given by a corporation to a Planned Parenthood is too much. Not only does it pay for the group's anti-life activities, it serves as an endorsement of Planned Parenthood as an organization. 

Corporate leaders often claim they also support Christian or other good causes. This is often true and they should be lauded for it. The corporation is being boycotted because of the evil being committed, not the good. Despite the insinuation by the corporations, the good can never excuse or counterbalance the evil. 

A corporate leader claimed the money given to Planned Parenthood is designated for "educational" programs and cancer screening, not abortion. 

Few corporate leaders would come right out and admit that they support the abortion industry. In any case, supporting Planned Parenthood releases unrestricted funds for abortion-related activity. Furthermore, Planned Parenthood's "educational" programs and its business activities that are unrelated to reproduction facilitate its abortion business by expanding its customer base. (See also "What harm is really being done?" below.) It is important to remember that giving money to Planned Parenthood legitimizes it by saying the group is worthy of support. If the Ku Klux Klan were to start a reading program for children that was totally free of racism, would corporations fund it? Would anyone accept the corporate claim that the grant was restricted to the reading program? If a pro-dog fighting group were to receive corporate funding, would anyone accept the excuse that the donation was "restricted" to the purchase of a copy machine? 

Consumers are not responsible for how their money is used after they buy a product. The corporation is morally responsible. 

It is certainly true that those decision-makers who support the abortion industry are morally responsible. However, those facts are irrelevant to the reasons for boycotting. Informed pro-lifers make a conscience choice to utilize this effective tactic in order to raise the issue to a level where it gets appropriate attention by the corporation. Please don't participate out of guilt. Instead, be a wise steward of your God-given resources, using them effectively for His purposes. 

LDI is suggesting that people shop only at explicitly Christian-owned establishments and that is impossible. 

This is flatly inaccurate. LDI is not asking people to shop exclusively at "Christian-owned" establishments; that would be ridiculous (and sometimes foolish as not all "Christian businesses" are conducted with integrity). We are providing very specific boycott targets to aid in advancing an extremely good cause. Your participation is desired because of your Christian convictions. 

Douglas R. Scott, Jr., underscores the most basic benefits gained when people act on their convictions. "We can serve as a great public witness. This is true from both a spiritual and educational perspective. What are people going to think of Christians who say they believe an issue is important but are unwilling to stand tall when the opportunity is afforded them?" 

Boycotting is a strong-armed, political tactic that is tantamount to extortion. 

It might be that some understand "boycotting" as meaning something other than it actually does. You might be more comfortable with the term "economic non-cooperation" or "smart shopping." You will shop, support, or buy from companies based on a set of consistent guidelines and principles. That is your right as a consumer and is neither political nor strong-armed. 

The LDI boycott is not extortion because neither you nor the organization calling for the boycott has anything to gain financially. On the other hand, pro-abortion groups sometimes threaten corporations with a boycott if they end funding. Such a boycott does constitute extortion (morally, if not legally) because they are demanding monetary gain. 

It is too much trouble to write to the corporations. 

If you are interested in boycotting it is important that you not merely change stores or fast food restaurant. In order for the boycott to be most effective, you have made changes because you choose to participate in the Corporate Funding Project. It is imperative that parent corporations receive a letter or telephone call from you. Graciously and briefly explain why you have exercised your right not to spend money with them. It does not take a great expenditure of time and energy and your one call or letter may push them into reconsideration. It is even more important that you contact the company than it is to not buy the products! Nevertheless, the more who avoid purchasing the target companies products, the better. 

What harm is really being done? 

Besides the actual destruction of preborn children through abortion, the anti-Christian and immoral teachings by Planned Parenthood have a devastating impact on young men and women. (For example, one common educational tactic of Planned Parenthood is "desensitizing." The goal is to break down inhibitions about sex so indoctrination can occur more readily accepted. In reality this tactic desensitizes the conscience and reduces the sanctity of the sexual relationship, while actually arousing interest in the topic.) It is important to remember that, in the eyes of God, abortion is murder. 

Boycott Participants Speak Out 

Life Decisions International asked Christians why they are active in the boycott of corporations that fund Planned Parenthood:

I will be called upon to answer how I treated the least of my brothers!! The unborn are our weakest brothers. Money has power. I do not want to provide any more power to Planned Parenthood. I can't prevent it from happening all the time, but sure want to as much as possible!          - S. R.

Many good pro-life people are unknowingly participating in abortion by their daily purchases. Luckily, research provides an effective vehicle for countering the massive corporate funding of the abortion industry.        - R. E.

Prayer and boycotting are very effective ways to make a point, change hearts, and show our non-support for organizations that support the killing of human beings.         - F. S.

It's Your Turn 

In his book Bad Choices: A Look Inside Planned Parenthood, Douglas R. Scott, Jr., wrote: "The Pro-Life Movement will succeed only to the extent that pro-life people are willing to be inconvenienced." Your willingness to be inconvenienced will move corporations.

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The History Of The Economic Boycott?

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The Corporate Funding Project (Boycott)

Order a Boycott List and/or Other Materials

Local/Regional Boycott Targets

Boycotted Credit Cards

CFP Copyright Details

CFP Endorsing Organizations

CFP Frequently Asked Questions

Why The Boycott List Is Not Freely Available

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Celebrating Chastity

Celebrity Watch

Community Action Project

Corporate Funding Project (Boycott)

Organization Watch

Planned Parenthood Challenge

Prayer Project

Pro-Life Advocacy

Student Outreach


 

Life Decisions International