Firms owned by Vista Outdoor being targeted by consumers

With many US cyclists choosing to boycott a number of cycle brands due to the parent company’s links to the National Rifle Association (NRA), many consumers are asking themselves whether they should make the same decision.

Activists have tried to put pressure on the NRA since the Florida school shooting by targeting firms with links to the organisation or which offer discounts or other benefits to its members.

Corporate partners have been flooded with comments on social media under the hashtag #BoycottNRA and a number of cycle brands have been among them.

As we reported on Thursday, Giro, Bell, Blackburn and Camelbak are all owned by Vista Outdoor, one of the biggest weapons and ammunition makers in the US.

According to Single Track, Vista spent over $500,000 on firearms lobbying in 2017, and is a major sponsor of the NRA’s in-house TV channel. The firm is also active in the National Sports Shooting Foundation, an industry-led lobby group which has campaigned for the relaxation of “concealed carry” laws, and wants to rebrand semi-automatic assault weapons as “Modern Sporting Rifles”.

New York-based cycling advocate Aaron Naparstek pointed out Vista’s lobbying and in a series of tweets and led calls for a boycott of its cycling brands.

The response has been significant. A BikeBiz article reporting on the campaign has now been liked over 25,000 times on Facebook.

Outside has since asked three ethics professors whether consumers should stop buying gear from Vista subsidiaries.

Professor Patricia Illingworth, who teaches business ethics at Northeastern University, argues: “People who buy products associated with Vista Outdoor are not directly responsible, but they are morally complicit.” (A reference to gun control laws and not mass shootings, it should be noted.)

Sarah-Vaughan Brakman, a professor of philosophy and ethics at Villanova University, says purchasers should not feel morally at fault, but goes on to say: “If we believe something is wrong, and if together our purchasing power can significantly change the bottom line, then consumers should change their habits.”

In contrast, Jason Brennan, professor of strategy, economics, ethics and public policy at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, doesn’t believe a boycott would achieve a great deal. “It’s highly unlikely you’ll end up hurting the other subsidiary you actually despise. The worst-case scenario for the parent company is that they sell the disliked subsidiary to someone else who isn’t concerned about and won’t be affected by the negative press. In the end, that accomplishes little.”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.