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History shows how consumer boycotts have influenced business

By Steve Goldstein
Published: Thursday, February 3, 2022 - 12:23pm

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Calvin Schermerhorn
Arizona State University
Calvin Schermerhorn.

Boycotts have been intended to power movements, or at least attempt to influence organizations and businesses to change their approaches.

Currently, we’re seeing a battle waged publicly between Spotify and some artists whose music had been available there — like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell — over the company’s connection to podcast host Joe Rogan.

But there are also consumer boycotts where the public is encouraged to stop buying particular products. In the course of history, those efforts have had extremely mixed results.

Calvin Schermerhorn is a history professor at Arizona State University, and he has looked deeply into how the sugar industry in the U.S. was boycotted by consumers in the effort to abolish slavery.

The Show spoke with him to learn about the general efficacy of consumer boycotts.

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