Markets campaigns to pressure companies to accept codes of conduct are here to stay, because they work. Companies usually surrender long before there is broad popular support for boycotts against them out of fear for damage to their brands. Thus the animal rights group PETA recently claimed victory over Ralph Lauren/Polo, after the company stated that it is eliminating fur from all its clothing and home product lines.
Campaigns can be direct, as in the recent campaign in U.K. against animal testing, or they can be indirect, as in the case of PETA’s campaign against KFC, where PETA is trying to get KFC to change the practices of its suppliers.
The groups involved range from the respectable, in U.K. e.g. RSPCA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to the nutty and criminal, e.g. the people recently sentenced to long jail sentences for harassing a guinea-pig-breeding farm family. Their activities included threatening letters, firebombing of cars, and grave robbery.
The animal rights extremists have recently found an unlikely adversary in Laurie Pycroft, a 16-year old school dropout who started a protest to save the construction of an 18 million pound research laboratory at Oxford.
However, by getting companies to accept codes of conduct, market campaigners are changing the business landscape. When campaigns succeed in making business as usual more expensive than changing, companies will change. It is a business decision. We can expect are lot more campaigns in the future. Who are the likely targets? Companies that depend on high brand recognition are soft targets, hence the campaigns against cosmetics firms.