Brand citizenship takes off

Lobbyists for tax justice have started using the hashtag #iPhone7boycott.

Lobbyists for tax justice have started using the hashtag #iPhone7boycott.

The first news of Apple’s sweetheart agreement with the Irish government, which allowed the corporate to pay exceptionally low amounts of tax, preceded the launch of the iPhone7 by just a few weeks.

Lobbyists for tax justice took the opportunity to highlight Apple’s unethical behaviour, which they have termed “legal tax evasion”, with the use of #iPhone7boycott.

It joins the list of boycotts being led against companies for avoiding tax, including Amazon, BP and Starbucks, as published by ethical consumer, an online magazine.

“People are looking at brands and not wondering which washes whites whiter or which drives faster but rather they are looking at the ethics behind it,” said Andy Rice, a specialist in branding and advertising. “It is not the biggest factor, but it is a factor as to whether brands construct, manufacture and employ in an ethical manner.”

Rice dubs it “brand citizenship” — the idea that a brand needs to effect positive developments in the places in which it operates.

He said, when green products came on to the market 20 years ago, consumer concern about sustainable and ethical issues was limited.

“People were happy to pay a premium. Few were prepared to sacrifice [and settle for an inferior product],” said Rice, adding that ethics come into play only when the quality is the same.

Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn is a business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She holds a master's degree in journalism and media studies from Wits University. Her areas of interest range from energy and mining to financial services and telecommunication. When she is not poring over annual reports, Lisa can usually be found pottering about the kitchen. Read more from Lisa Steyn

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