Waheed Hussain, “Resisting the Ethical Consumer”

Waheed Hussain, University of Toronto
“Resisting the Ethical Consumer”
October 21, Time: 5pm-6pm

In 2012, American fast food chain Chik-fil-A was simultaneously the target of a boycott by supporters of gay rights and a ‘buycott’ by supporters of family values. This is just one example of how ethical consumerism can draw companies into heated political controversies. In this paper, I develop my “proto-legislative” theory of ethical consumerism (Hussain 2012) to provide an account of the moral responsibilities of businesses. I argue that companies should generally be sensitive to the “price-quality” preferences of their customers. But companies should be sensitive to the “ethical” preferences of their customers only when these preferences have been formed through an adequately democratic form of consultation and engagement. The basic idea is that companies have a duty to direct political controversies away from the market and back into the political process.

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