James Dyson – the engineer and tidying enthusiast who pioneered the idea of ball-shaped hoovers – has announced that he will be moving his base of operations to Singapore.
This has led to some people suggesting that it’s not just his vacuums that suck. And while Dyson, who campaigned for Leave, claims the move won’t impact jobs at the company’s current Wiltshire base and definitely isn’t about Brexit, the announcement isn’t exactly a vote of confidence in Britain.
It feels like a bit of a kick in the teeth for people on all sides of the Brexit debate, but one thing’s for sure: Dyson does make very good vacuum cleaners.
So what do you do when a product you own and enjoy is suddenly at odds with your beliefs? Whenever a big company does anything people disagree with, Twitter is awash with people destroying their products – Keurig, Nike and Gillette have all been the subjects of politically-motivated destruction.
But all you end up with, in practical terms, is a broken coffee machine, burned shoes and a blocked toilet. The company’s bottom line is rarely affected by your outrage – they had your money, and still have your money, and when your ire fades and you realise you liked those shoes, they might get even more of it.
If you’re upset at James Dyson’s business strategy, nothing whatsoever will be gained by taking a hammer to your Dyson Cyclone. You’ll just make a mess, a mess you’ll then lack the capacity to hoover up. Everyone would like to support only companies that do the right thing, but it’s hard not to feel like you’re shooting yourself in the foot by doing so.
It’s universally acknowledged that Amazon could conduct themselves better – they were at the top spot of consumer satisfaction polls until customers were asked to consider ethics – but they’re so damned convenient. “I should really support independent bookshops,” we think, all the while Prime-ing a bunch of bargains from the sofa because it’s cold outside and we’re watching a film.
Consistency is difficult. It’s easy to get all high and mighty boycotting one brand, while continuing to support others that are no better. “I would never dream of using McDonald’s because of how they treat their employees,” we say, sipping a latte from Starbucks, whose corporate tax record is terrible.
It’s easy to get all high and mighty boycotting one brand, while continuing to support others that are no better."
It’s easy to feel powerless: arguing in your head that boycotting a company makes so little impact you’re only inconveniencing yourself, foregoing the ease and financial savings you might make while not doing anything they’ll actually notice. Should we constantly self-flagellate for making decisions based on convenience or value? Life is tough, money’s scarce and it feels like no big companies have truly clean hands.
The answer probably lies in more strictly-enforced laws surrounding business ethics, the treatment of employees and corporate tax avoidance. If companies were forced to conduct themselves better, we’d be spared this situation where, in real terms, consumers are penalised emotionally or financially for caring. Can’t we get stuff delivered to our doors without feeling morally compromised?
You can’t make hypocrisy illegal, so James Dyson will be fine, but that’s where informed choice comes in. Meanwhile, making Britain great again by moving your business to the other side of the world? What a load of old balls.