I always thought the opposite of a boycott was a girlcott. Turns out it’s a ‘buycott’.
In a boycott, a bunch of people punish a company they dislike by not buying their stuff. In a buycott, they reward one they like.
Here on Azimuth, Allan Erskine pointed out one organization pushing this idea: Carrotmob, founded by Brent Schulkin. Why ‘Carrotmob’? Well, while a boycott threatens a company with the ‘stick’ of economic punishment, a mob of customers serves as a ‘carrot’ to reward good behavior.
Carrotmob’s first buycott was local: they went to 23 convenience stores in San Francisco with a plan to transform one into the most environmentally-friendly store in the neighborhood, and promised to bring in a bunch of consumers to the winner to spend a bunch of money on one day. In order to receive the increased sales from this event, store owners were invited to place bids on what percentage of that revenue they’d spend on making their store more energy-efficient. The winning bid was 22%, by K & D Market. On the day of the campaign, hundreds of people arrived and spent over $9200. In exchange, the store took 22% of that revenue, and used it to do a full retrofit of their lighting system.
Can it be scaled up? Can these deals be enforced? Time will tell, but it seems like a good thing to try. For one thing, unlike a boycott, it spreads good vibes, because it’s a positive-sum game. On the other hand, over on Google+, Matt McIrvin wrote:
I’m a little skeptical that this kind of approach works over the long term, because it would have the effect of increasing the market price of “good” products through increased demand, which in turn means that anyone who doesn’t care about the attribute in question will be motivated to buy the lower-priced “bad” products instead. What you end up with is just a market sector of politically endorsed products that may do a good niche business but that most people ignore.
This is also the big problem with just telling people to go green instead of taxing or otherwise regulating environmental externalities.
Here are some good stories:
• Ready? Set. Shop! One genius environmentalist puts the flash-mob phenomenon to high-minded use, San Francisco Magazine, June 2008.
• Change we can profit from, The Economist, 29 January 2009.
For more, try the references here:
• Carrotmob, Wikipedia.
What other innovative strategies could environmentalists use, that we should know about?
By the way, boycotts are named after Captain Charles Boycott. The story is sort of interesting…