August 09, 2006

Corporations and your buying power

In an earlier article, I introduced you to Shire, a licensed pet therapy dog working with special needs children in New Brunswick. She has been targeted by the town of Florenceville because she is a Rottweiler.

Her owner is an employee of McCain Foods Canada and moved to Florenceville as part of his job with McCain. McCain has chosen not to intervene to save Shire.

At what point does an employer, or even a corporation with no direct personal interest in an issue, become responsible as a contributing member of society and at what point do we hold them accountable through the use of our purchasing power?

Here is my e-mail to McCain Foods Limited, very short and not so sweet:

Save Shire the Rottweiler in Florenceville or lose:

- my business
- my friends' business
- my co-workers' business
- my clients' business (dog trainer)
- my suppliers' business
- every contact I have around the world

Clear enough?
Here is their response, also short and not so sweet:
Thank you for taking the time to write us regarding your concerns about the Village of Florenceville, the Rottweiler named Shire and your wish for a McCain Foods Canada intervention.

As I hope you can appreciate, McCain Foods Canada views this as public policy issue to be settled between the village council of Florenceville and one of its citizens.

The village council has been duly-elected by the people of Florenceville and therefore should represent the majority interest of its constituents.

We are hopeful that an outcome will be found that works for all interested parties.

Sincerely,

McCain Foods Canada
Because of this response, McCain will no longer be receiving any of my hard-earned cash and I will be following through with the rest of my promise to them. This means that I will no longer be buying any of the following items:
  • McCains frozen fries, drinks and desserts (and pizza)

  • Maple Leaf meats

  • Dempsters breads

  • Oliveri

  • Hygrade (in Quebec)

  • Burns

  • Shopsys

  • Tenderflake

  • Nutriwhip

  • California Goldminer Sourdough

  • Maison Cousin

  • Canada Bread

  • Olafson's

  • POM

  • Ben's

  • Jon-Lin

  • Elio's
So why am I doing this? What does McCain Foods have to do with Shire and her predicament? Why do they have to respond at all?

Well, frankly, they don't. It's entirely up to them and it's their decision to make. It's also entirely up to me where I decide to spend my money and for what reasons. If I don't like something about a company, I don't have to buy from them. Simple, but effective.

There are many Americans who will only buy American-made products because they prefer to see their money remain in the United States. Have the foreign companies done anything wrong or socially unacceptable? No, but those consumers who prefer to buy American are choosing not to spend their money on foreign products because of an underlying political belief that permeates all of their life decisions.

A die-hard believer in animal rights (i.e., no use of animals for any human purpose) may choose not to wear leather or fur. In that case, they believe that the leather and fur companies are actually doing wrong, so it's even easier for them to shun those purchases.

PetSmart decides that "bull-and-terrier" type dogs (American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs) are not welcome at their doggy day camps. Consequently, owners of "bull-and-terrier" dogs (of which there are an estimated five million in North America) AND many owners of other breeds now choose not to shop at PetSmart.

You get the idea. Sometimes, it's obvious. Sometimes, you may need to dig deeper.

You don't even have to disagree with a company's policies in order to decide against buying from them. You may have a choice among three companies. One actively engages in activities that you don't agree with, so that decision is easy. The second stays out of everything, doesn't get involved. The third actively pursues a positive agenda that, in your mind, improves society. If you are serious about encouraging that type of societal involvement from corporations, then you would choose to purchase from number three (and, ideally, you would let all three companies know why).

For example, imagine that your family has been severely affected by cancer and you have decided that you want to support cancer research in whatever way you can. You donate to cancer research foundations, you volunteer, you do as much as you can. Now, in your area, there are three grocery chains from which you can buy your household food. The first sells cigarettes. The second doesn't sell cigarettes, but doesn't actively or publicly promote anything. The third not only doesn't sell cigarettes, but is active in the community promoting cancer research, putting on events to raise money, advertising the same on TV and radio, etc. You will choose the third, even though the second isn't technically doing anything wrong, because you know that at least some of the profits from your purchases are going to help cancer research.

McCain Foods falls into the second category - a company that chooses to do nothing.

First and foremost, unlike many other situations in which we find breed-specific legislation, here we have a small town with a huge employer. There is no doubt in my mind, whatsoever, that McCain Foods has influence with town officials in Florenceville. Florenceville is the chosen location not only for McCain Foods Canada, but for the head office of the entire McCain organization worldwide. If it becomes important enough to them, the company will start to make waves.

Second, doing nothing is not always good enough, not even for faceless corporate entities. Sometimes you have to stand up and speak out against things that you think are wrong, even if they're not directly within your particular sphere of interest.

Third, when I see someone doing nothing AFTER the injustice has been pointed out to them and they have been given the opportunity to get involved, then I start feeling like I really don't want to give them my business.

So, am I blaming McCain's? Not really. They're just doing what most companies try to do - avoid rocking the boat. But, since nobody's forcing me to spend my money with them, I'm choosing not to. That's all. It's my own personal decision and I'm not suggesting that anybody else do the same. You make your own choices and I'll make mine. Democracy in action!

Now, if McCain's were to perk up and start knocking some heads together down home in Florenceville, maybe I'd change my mind.

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