Research & Insights

Naming and Shaming Corporate Offenders Causes Pain, Then Change

Some would like us to believe that corporations are people. But if so, one thing they don’t share with real people is the protection offered by the childhood nursery rhyme that says, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt.”

Turns out that activist campaigns that “name and shame” companies take their toll as consumers who learn of their offending behaviors curtail purchases.

In the December 2011 issue of Social Forces, sociologists Tim Bartley and Curtis Child of Indiana University write that “activist campaigns filter into the preferences of consumers, who are the key force in punishing or rewarding firms.”

Bartley and Child focused on the anti-sweatshop campaigns that targeted well known firms like Nike and Walmart as well as lesser-known firms that sell to businesses, rather than consumers.

Among their findings:

  • Anti-sweatshop campaigns have negatively impacted firms, including Nike, Walmart and the Gap. The three firms, which have famous and recognizable products, experienced greater drops in sales than unknown textile firms that generally sell to other businesses.
  • “Name and shame” campaigns can also contribute to a drop in stock prices of the targeted companies.
  • Targeted firms pay attention and will respond instituting policies that lead to more responsible social behavior.

Social Forces, December 2011

Tim Bartley, Indiana University-Bloomington
Curtis Child, Brigham Young University

Posted: August 11, 2014
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