Boycott Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020

Are you boycotting Black Friday? We think you should. Here’s why.

Below we highlight Black Friday’s rise in popularity in the UK, why it’s a kick in the teeth to the planet, and which tax-avoiding companies will be reaping profits.

We also direct you to the companies refusing to participate in Black Friday sales and highlight Buy Nothing Day and Make Smthing Week.

According to the BBC, 85% of UK consumers plan to shop for Black Friday deals and will spend a total of £7.5bn over Black Friday weekend.

ShopperTrak research predicts that Black Friday weekend will see the busiest day of trading in 2020. It’ll be busier than the Christmas sales, or last minute shopping the weekend before Christmas.

That’s a lot of online shopping!

Over half of shoppers are expected to buy electronics, and a third clothing. A Green Alliance report states that 80% of these items, and the plastic packaging they are wrapped in, will end up in landfill, incineration, or at best low-quality recycling sometimes after a very short life.

According to Gekko research, British consumers are already wasting £641m online every year buying goods they don’t want and not even returning them and that’s only going to get worse over Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Who’s going to profit?

Below we give you a low-down on some of the tax avoiding companies that are expected to do best from the consumer frenzy.

The big winner from Black Friday is likely to be arch tax avoider Amazon, which had a 26% share of the market in 2018. It's a distant second place for eBay which had less than 10% of total web sales.

Amazon

Prolific tax avoider Amazon is largely credited for Black Friday’s rise in the UK over the past decade. For the first time ever Amazon launched Black Friday sales a whole month early, with new deals every day.

Amazon has reported a 37% increase in earnings during the pandemic. In spite of this increased profit, Amazon announced at the beginning of September that its key UK business paid just a 3% increase in corporation tax in 2019.

In 2018, the company paid an overall figure of £220 million in direct UK taxes, despite UK revenues amounting to £10.9 billion. Ethical Consumer has a boycott call against Amazon for its tax avoidance.

The company scores 0 in our shopping guides.

Email and tweet Amazon to let them know you are boycotting Black Friday via their company profile page.

We've also joined the #MakeAmazonPay campaign - a coalition of organisations with a list of 25 demands.

eBay

eBay fares better on our rankings than Amazon, receiving an Ethiscore of 8. However it too receives a worst Ethical Consumer rating for the likely use of tax avoidance strategies, as it has many high risk companies in jurisdictions considered to be tax havens by Ethical Consumer, including eBay International AG and eBay Holding gmbh, both holding companies based in Switzerland, with subsidiaries in other countries.

It was also notable that eBay was registered in Delaware (considered a tax haven at the time of writing), although its head office was in California.

Read more about eBay.

Apple

Apple has an Ethiscore of 6.5. Apple scores our worst rating for 'Likely Use of Tax Avoidance Strategies'. In May 2020 Ethical Consumer searched for the most recent executive remuneration figures for the company, and found that in 2018 the highest paid executive received an astonishing $25,231,800.

Read more about Apple.

Sony

Sony Corporation has an Ethiscore of 5. It too received our worst tax rating for 'Likely Use of Tax Avoidance Strategies', with multiple subsidiaries in locations considered tax havens at the time of writing including Singapore, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Luxembourg.

Read more about Sony Corporation.

Currys PC World

Currys PC World is owned by Dixons Carphone Plc. It received our worst rating for 'Likely Use of Tax Avoidance Strategies'. An article on the Retail Gazette website stated that the company was fined £29.1m from the Financial Conduct Authority for mis-selling its “Geek Squad service”. It had allegedly trained staff in “spin selling” the product to customers who already had insurance cover.”

Read more about Dixons Carphone Plc.

Boohoo

This company has been in the news recently over its mis-treatment of workers especially during the pandemic but it’s apparent tax avoidance strategies have often gone under the radar.

The company is registered in Jersey (where it also owns a second holding company) and its subsidiary, PrettyLittleThing.com USA Inc, of which it owns 66%, is registered in Delaware, USA, a US state known for its secrecy laws.

Boohoo claims it has no tax advantage from these arrangements telling us “Boohoo Group plc and all its UK subsidiaries are registered for UK tax and pay UK taxes on all profits. There is no tax benefit to the group or any individual company from being registered in Jersey.”

However, the company did not given an adequate explanation of why its ultimate parent company was incorporated in Jersey, nor why it had another holding company (ABK ltd) in Jersey.

Given that it had its ultimate parent company and one high risk subsidiary in jurisdictions on Ethical Consumer's tax haven list and it published no country-by-country financial information, the company received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies.

The company has an ethiscore of 4.

Read more about Boohoo

Missguided

When we researched Missguided in July 2019, its ultimate parent company was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands - considered a tax haven at the time of writing, meaning it too received our worst rating in this category.

We viewed the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report, 'Fixing Fashion: Clothing Consumption and Sustainability', published on 19th February 2019. Missguided was one of several companies rated as 'least engaged' in sustainable fashion and labour market initiatives.

Missguided has an ethiscore of 6.

Read more about Missguided.

If you want to avoid the tax-avoiding giants like Amazon you might want to look at our ‘Shopping without Amazon’ series which lists alternative ethical retailers.

Companies challenging Black Friday this year

Here are a few of the UK companies doing something different on Black Friday.

Patagonia

Patagonia doesn't participate in Black Friday. Its biggest stand against the winter shopping event was in 2016 when the B-Corp donated 100% of sales on that day to grassroots environmental organisations. The feat went viral and Patagonia was able to make $10 million in sales. Ethical Consumer was unable to identify whether the company was donating sales to charity this year, though once again it was one of just a small number of large companies that appeared to be sitting the sales out.

Ethical Superstore

Ethical Superstore is running a “feel good alternative to Black Friday”: Food Bank Friday. From 23 November to 30 November all items are discounted 20%, and one item from their stock is donated to a foodbank with each order over £30. Ethical Superstore stocks several of our Best Buys on their website, so doing a shop with them is a great alternative to Amazon that will directly fund an ethical company.

Traidcraft

For the second year running, Traidcraft is completely rejecting the Black Friday frenzy and instead concentrating on highlighting transparency. This Black Friday the company will be showing consumers the full cost breakdown of all Traidcraft branded products, via a URL printed on the customer's invoice.

Jo Lambert from Traidcraft states: "From shipping, production, and profit, we’re going to reveal the true cost of products at every step of the production line. Our hope is to demonstrate and prove our dedication to sharing profits fairly with all workers, and ask why other companies are failing to offer this level of transparency."

Anti-Black Friday actions

#ShopEthicalInstead

A campaign led by Ethical Hour is encouraging people to #ShopEthicalInstead and think about the positive impact purchases could have this Christmas. Since 1 November 2020 the hashtag has been used by small businesses and their supporters over 540,000 times.

According to Business Mole, 32 million people have been supporting local and small businesses online since lockdown began in March. 55% of people intend to consciously spend more in local shops after lockdown to show support.

While consumer support can help some companies stay afloat, small businesses are in dire need of further financial assistance from the government. 21,000 independent UK shops did not reopen after the first lockdown according to British Independent Retail Association (BIRA). The country is set to lose up to 50% of independent retail by March 2021 if the sector does not receive more support.

Make Smthing

Make Smthing week is running workshops online from 21-29 November showing people how to "Make smthing for your city". This includes workshops on repairing things, running foodshares and urban gardening.

Buy Nothing Day

Buy Nothing Day has run on the same day as Black Friday since 1997. According to its website “Buy Nothing Day is where you challenge yourself, your family and friends to switch off from shopping and tune into life.”

An article in KeiSei Magazine sums up the potential of Buy Nothing Day neatly: "It is a symbolic statement that draws attention to the issue of over-consumption." It is "a day that prompts people to think more about what they are spending".