Boycott news from Ethical Consumer magazine issue 146 January/February 2013.
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Amazon boycott update
Naturewatch maintains Body Shop boycott
Botswana tourism boycott builds momentum
Winter Olympics boycott
Amazon boycott update
MPs join Amazon Boycott
A group of MPs have joined Ethical Consumer’s own boycott of Amazon in time for some ‘Amazon Free Christmas’ campaigning.
Margaret Hodge, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Select Committee and fierce critic of taxavoiding companies, said: “It’s hugely important that we all take a stand and damage the reputation and business of companies such as Amazon that deliberately avoid paying their fare share of tax to the common purse for the common good. If enough people boycott Amazon then we will damage their business. Amazon’s market share and reputation matters.”
The other MPs to sign up are Natascha Engel, Meg Hillier, John McDonnell, Michael Meacher, Austin Mitchell, Graham Morris and Dennis Skinner.
Read our exclusive interview with Margaret Hodge MP.
Lush takes Amazon to court
Lush Cosmetics does not allow Amazon to sell its products and Lush co-founder, Mark Constantine, has been extremely critical of the way the US company operates. But when visitors to Amazon type the word “lush” into its search field, they are directed to alternative ‘copy cat’ cosmetic products that the online giant suggests they might like to buy instead.
According to documents filed in court in November, “Lush brought trademark infringement proceedings against Amazon on the basis that when the term ‘Lush’ was searched for on Amazon’s website, the results returned were for goods which, although they featured the word ‘lush’ in a number of contexts, were not in fact made by Lush.
Amazon had also bid on the Google AdWord ‘Lush Bath Products’ but did not, in fact, sell any Lush products.”
If Lush is successful, it could deter online retailers from making suggestions for alternatives to products that they do not sell and restrict how they use Google.
Constantine said Amazon’s alleged infringement of Lush’s intellectual property was a “way of bullying businesses to use its services and we refused”. In an interview in the New Review examining how Amazon operates, he said: “We’ve been in the high court this week to sue it for breach of trademark. It’s cost us half a million pounds so far to defend our business. Most Amazon Boycott update companies just can’t afford that. But we’ve done it because it’s a matter of principle. [Amazon] keeps forcing your hand and yet it doesn’t have a viable business model. The only way it can afford to run is by not paying tax. If it had to behave in a more conventional way, it would struggle.”
“It’s a form of piracy capitalism,” Constantine said. “[Amazon] rushes into people’s countries, it takes the money out, and dumps it in some port of convenience. That’s not a business in any traditional sense. It’s an ugly return to a form of exploitative capitalism that we had a century ago and we decided as a society to move on from.”
The ruling is due early next year.
Amazon warehouse working conditions revealed
In November 2013 the BBC’s Panorama programme investigated working conditions within an Amazon warehouse in Swansea, where an undercover reporter, Adam Littler, filmed his shifts as a ‘picker’.
Littler reported working ten and a half hour night shifts involving nearly 11 miles of walking. Although Amazon claimed its night shifts were lawful, the BBC quoted experts who stated that “these ten-and-a-half-hour night shifts could breach the working time regulations because of the long hours and the strenuous nature of the work”.
Professor Marmot, a leading British expert on stress at work, commented on the BBC’s findings: “the characteristics of this type of job, the evidence shows, increases the risk of mental illness and physical illness.” He discussed the importance of balancing efficiency at the cost of an individual’s health and well-being.
Adam described his experience of working for Amazon. “We are machines, we are robots, we plug our scanner in, we’re holding it, but we might as well be plugging it into ourselves...We don’t think for ourselves, maybe they don’t trust us to think for ourselves as human beings.”
Amazon drops Marketplace pricing policy
In November, German regulators halted their antitrust case against Amazon after the online retailer agreed to lift a regulation prohibiting third-party traders from selling their products cheaper elsewhere. The German Federal Cartel Office decided to shelve the case after interviewing Amazon Marketplace retailers who ‘‘expressly confirmed these measures have been implemented.’’
It said it had conducted its investigation in co-operation with the British Office of Fair Trading and the EU’s European Competition Network and that the prohibition of the ‘‘price parity” policy would apply Europe-wide.
More boycotts new
Although Body Shop claims cruelty-free products, its parent company, L’Oréal, is reported to continue testing on animals outside the EU. L’Oréal has identified China, a country outside the remit of the EU cosmetics ban, as its key market within coming years.
In July 2013 it was reported that Body Shop provided L’Oréal with a £40 million dividend. It was argued by Naturewatch that profits made by The Body Shop benefited L’Oréal and could, indirectly, be used to fund the other activities of L’Oréal – which included testing on animals and funding its own research facility in China.
Naturewatch has created a Compassionate Shopping Guide to provide consumers with information about cruelty-free products. The campaign group stated that “for a company to be endorsed as cruelty free by Naturewatch, its parent company must also have a Fixed Cut-Off Date Animal Testing Policy in place”. At the time of writing, L’Oréal did not have a Fixed Cut- Off Date Animal Testing Policy.
To find out more visit www.naturewatch.org where you can send email letters to both Body Shop and L’Oréal.
The Guide can be bought on Naturewatch’s website for £4.00.
Survival, the tribal rights organisation, has called for a boycott of tourism to Botswana. The call was made in response to the Botswana government’s continued attempts to force the last hunting Bushmen in Africa off their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), while promoting the reserve as a tourist destination.
1997, 2002 and 2005 saw a series of evictions that forced the Bushmen out of the CKGR. Although permission to live and hunt on the reserve was granted after a successful court case in 2006, the Botswana government require the Bushmen to apply for hunting permits, which are constantly refused. One Bushman commented: “We depend on the natural resources of the CKGR for our food. How are we expected to survive if we cannot hunt?”
Stories of Bushmen being arrested and abused for hunting without permits, the Bushmen’s long-standing lawyer being barred from Botswana by the government, and a crackdown on critical voices within the media have lead to the current boycott call.
According to Survival, two travel companies have suspended their tours to the country and several others have expressed concern about the Botswana government’s continued persecution of the Bushmen. International tour operator Travelpickr commented “We have cancelled our pending tour requests for Botswana and informed the local tour operators about this boycott. We will suspend all tours and block tour requests to Botswana until the government in Botswana has improved the situation.”
Ekaterina Samutsevich, a member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, joined LGBTIQ Greens and numerous western celebrities in supporting a full boycott of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics over concerns about Russia’s anti-gay laws.
In June 2013, Russia passed a law that prohibited the spread of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships among minors”. Since June, an increase in assaults on homosexuals has been reported and the number of LGBT Russian nationals seeking asylum has peaked. Russia’s discrimination against LGBT members contradicts key principles of the Olympic games, for example Article 6 which states “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”
Ekaterina Samutsevich commented: “I support the boycott because I do not think at this stage there is any other way to make our authorities see and understand because they keep ignoring the rights of their citizens... and there is no other way to affect change, because the authorities have taken hostage of the media, so perhaps this boycott can be a symbol of criticism being voiced.”
Ekaterina also mentioned that highprofile Russian athletes are facing immense pressure to publicly adopt “anti-gay views” and appear supportive of their country’s institutionalized anti-LGBT sentiment. At the time of writing, no country had yet committed to boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Pledge to boycott the 2014 Olympic games.
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