issue 152

Boycott news from Ethical Consumer magazine issue 152 January/February 2015.



Neil Young calls for Starbucks boycott


First electoral body joins the BDS movement


Barclays Bank boycott update




Neil Young calls for Starbucks boycott 


In November 2014 the singer-songwriter Neil Young drank his last Starbucks latte as he commenced a boycott of the coffee shop chain.

He urged fans to join the boycott and sign his SumOfUs petition.

The petition aims to pressurise Starbucks into withdrawing its support for a lawsuit filed against the state of Vermont, over its labelling of products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). 

The lawsuit was filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), an industry group which Starbucks was said to be an affiliate member of. 

Young argued that until Starbucks disassociated itself from the GMA, it was merely “hiding behind the shadowy ‘Grocery Manufacturers Association... Whatever you think of GMOs, corporations should not be using massive lawsuits to overturn legitimate, democratic decisions with strong public backing.” 

In June the GMA announced it was taking legal action against Vermont’s law on constitutional grounds, arguing that only the federal government had the role of “regulating nationwide distribution and labelling practices that facilitate interstate commerce”.[1]

Although Starbucks denied claims that it was linked to the lawsuit against GMO labelling, it was quoted as saying it preferred a “national solution” on the issue. Sign the SumOfUs petition: Earlier in the year, Neil Young had also urged fans to boycott all cotton not labelled as organic, due to the large volume of pesticides used in cotton production, in addition to the prevalence of GMO cotton worldwide. 




First electoral body joins the BDS movement 


As of the 14th November 2014, Leicester City Council became the first elected body to adopt the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) boycott against products sourced from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA), a UK based non-profit organisation, quoted the council’s motion text: “Leicester is a city renowned for its tolerance, diversity, unity and its strong stance against all forms of discrimination.” 

FOA reported that the boycott resolution cited Israel’s continued breach of international law, the Geneva Conventions and UN resolutions, and its occupation of Palestinian territories.




Barclays Bank boycott update 


Campaign group Stop the War Coalition (STWC) recently reported that Barclays had “traded shares that rose in price after the extensive use of drone technology during Israel’s summer massacre in Gaza, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, 500 of them children”. 

The British bank was reported to hold shares worth more than $2.9 million in Israel’s largest military company, Elbit Systems, the main supplier of drones used to attack and kill Palestinian civilians in Gaza. 

Although more than 1.7 million people have pressured Barclays to divest from projects linked to the oppression of the Palestinian people, the company has yet to act and refutes claims that it profits from ‘Israeli militarism’. 

The bank has responded to campaign pressure saying: “Barclays holds a very small number of shares in Elbit Systems Ltd on behalf of clients and to hedge exposure against customers facing transactions. Holding shares in companies on behalf of clients, as well as maintaining appropriate hedging strategies, is normal practice for banks, but does not equate to an investment made by Barclays.” 

Banktrack researcher Ryan Brightwell said: “A bank has a choice of whether or not to make an investment on behalf of clients. Shareholdings in Elbit for hedging purposes are investments, and could easily be replaced by other shares with a similar risk profile. Barclays has a policy commitment to remedy human rights violations it is linked to. But instead it is ducking its commitments and continuing to deal in a company which provides drones that have been used to bomb Gaza.” 

Barclays has been accused by Palestinian student groups and Amnesty International of being complicit in war crimes. Until the bank divests, consumers are being asked to boycott the bank, close their accounts and tell the bank why they have taken this action. Visit for more information and to read STWC’s full report.