BDS Targets and Alternatives

Featured Image: By Kristen Otenti. Created in Affinity Designer.

 
 

What is BDS?

The short answer is BDS = Boycott, Divest, Sanctions. It’s a way to force Israel to stop its apartheid against Palestine. If you need a longer answer, check out the BDS Movement website, where they provide a great overview of what BDS is, as well as in-depth information on their targets and why they were chosen.

My focus today is the boycott campaign and providing alternatives to folks who want to help but don’t know where to start when the brands they use are being targeted.

An Important Note (Or Two)

We know there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism, so none of the options I provide here are going to be perfect. Generally, smaller, local companies are better options than large, national or international corporations, because small companies tend to still focus on people over profits. Because I can’t recommend local options for everyone, I have recommended larger brands that are … I loathe to say it … lesser evils. I encourage you to look into your own local options and find companies that live by values you support.

Of course, the best option would be to avoid buying everything new all the time. While I don’t recommend it for some items (underwear and food come to mind), buying secondhand, item swapping, upcycling, repairing, and renting are all great ways to not only avoid shopping at boycott targets, but reducing overall waste.

Consumer Boycott Targets and Alternatives

Consumer boycott targets. 12 logos laid in a grid: AXA, Puma, Carrefour, Chevron, Boycott Israeli Goods, Ahava, HP, Caltex, Re/Max, Siemens SodaStream, and Texaco. Red, black, white, and green border around the image.

AXA

What it is: Insurance and investment management.

Why it’s a target: It invests in Israeli banks.

What to use instead: Top competitors of AXA include:

Note: Ethical Consumer [here on out referred to as “EC”] is mostly UK companies, and it requires a subscription to view the full ratings and reasons (however, they do offer a trial period).

That said, EC’s “best buy” for insurance is Naturesave (its worst score being for carbon management and reporting) but Good With Money discloses that Naturesave’s policies are underwritten by AXA. The Good Shopping Guide [GSG] gives their accreditation to Arma Karma, ETA, General Accident, and Quote Me Happy for insurance.

For the US, I’d say this is one area where local really is the best option. Some credit unions offer insurance, so you may want to check those out and there’s Barclays avoided, too. (See “Divestment and Exclusion Targets.”)

Guide to get a better bank from Green America.

Puma

What it is: Athletic wear.

Why it’s a target: It sponsors the Israel Football Association. (Puma has announced it won’t renew the contract, but until then, it remains complicit and on the boycott list.)

What to use instead: EC recommends avoiding Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Columbia, and Lululemon for worker conditions (among other concerns, such as Adidas partners with an Israeli company and Lululemon’s founder being a complete asshole). EC gives Asics a middling score (marked down for toxic chemicals and cotton sourcing) but if your focus is avoiding Puma, their running shoes are the best (source: me).

EC’s best buys in this category are Beyond Retro and Girlfriend Collective. Australia’s Shop Ethical guide [SE] rates both Dharma Bums and P.E. Nation “B” on an A through F scale.

In my research, I came across a couple sites that may be helpful in finding guilt-free goods:

  • GoodOnYou.eco rates clothing brands in three categories: People, The Environment, and Animals. They also have editors picks for different regions. This is the US list, but there are links on that page for the other regions.
  • DoneGood.co which only sells vetted brands that are people- and eco-friendly. (They also sell accessories, home goods, self care items, and more.)

And while not all of these brands are athletic wear-focused, I would be remiss not to suggest Palestinian-owned brands:

Carrefour

What it is: Retailer (supermarkets, convenience stores, and more).

Why it’s a target: It has provided gifts to IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) soldiers and partners with Electra Consumer Products, an Israeli company.

What to use instead: Finding a whole retail company that checks all the boxes is not an easy task. For example:

Extra note on Aldi and Kroger: they use prison labor.

EC recommends Riverford Organic Farmers, Suma Wholesale, and Hisbe.

For us USians … you’re going to get sick of me saying this, but … look for a local or convenient grocer and shop local and/or ethical brands. Find a co-op near youon the National CoOp Grocers website.

If you’re in the northeast US, I recommend Wegmans. They have a good selection of socially- and environmentally-conscious brands compared to some of the other chains. (Although, last time I was in another grocery store, it seemed they were catching up.)

FairTradeAmerica.org, which certifies brands and products that meet their social, economic, and environmental criteria, has a product finder on their website.

Canaan Palestine offers olive oil, grains, spices, and sauces. From their description on Green America: “Our olive oil and all of our products come with a Palestinian Certificate of Origin. Certified organic. Certified fair trade.”

Chevron (and Caltex and Texaco)

What it is: Fossil fuels.

Why it’s a target: It’s the main company extracting gas off the coast of Palestine, generating billions for Israel and helping Israel keep these resources from Palestinians.

What to use instead: Yeah, this is one of those industries where there is no ethical option. EC recommends avoiding ExxonMobil (for its climate denial, carbon intensity, and undermining the EITI), and WhatToBoycott.org [WTB] says BP has been awarded exploration rights off the coast of Palestine, so if you can avoid them, too, do it.

I know that doesn’t leave a lot of options for those of us dependent on gas (which our billionaire overlords have ensured for the vast majority of us Westerners). EC notes that Shell may appear to be the lesser evil here, but they’ve been expanding operations. WTB says they have divested from Israel, though, that that may be your best bet for major gas brands.

If you can, try taking public transportation (which will lessen overall gas consumption) or, if you’re close to where you need to go (and it’s safe to), try walking or biking.

Israeli Produce

What it is: Produce from stolen Palestinian land.

Why it’s a target: On top of being produced on stolen land, the sale of these goods also funds Israeli apartheid.

What to use instead: It would seem that “produce from anywhere else” is the answer here, but there are plenty of produce brands that participate in colonialism in other parts of the world, too. Dole and Chiquita, for example. So shoot for local produce first. If you need to shop a big brand, research the ones available near you.

Ahava

What it is: Cosmetics.

Why it’s a target: It’s an Israeli company located on stolen land.

What to use instead: You’ll forgive me if this is a cop-out, but on the-site-formerly-(but-also-still)-known-as-Twitter, @umberghauri has put together a pretty comprehensive list of both brands to avoid and brands to use instead. It includes skincare and haircare, as well. And it’s conveniently offered in both image and spreadsheet form.

To save you the click, Huda Beauty, Simi Haze, and Makeup by Mario are not just safe, but pro-Palestine. Other safe brands include Bare Minerals and REM Beauty.

No shade to the list, but since I dug deeper with my other recommendations, I will just add: EC recommends avoiding JAB Holding Company for scoring low across all their categories. (Their brands include Cover Girl, Max Factor, and Rimmel.)

HP (Hewlett Packard)

What it is: Computers and printers.

Why it’s a target: It provides computer hardware to the IOF and provides servers for the Israeli police.

What to use instead: EC gives Acer and Lenovo decent scores for computers, and GSG scores Acer highest. SE gives Konica Minolta and Lexmark each a B for printers. GSG seconds Lexmark and puts Brother on top.

Remember used or refurbished, or getting a broken device repaired, is a better option than buying new. Especially if you’re getting a laptop with a lithium battery. Let’s not trade supporting one set of human rights abuses for supporting another set of human rights abuses.

Re/Max

What it is: Real estate.

Why it’s a target: It aids colonization of Palestine by selling stolen land to colonizers.

What to use instead: Oh, look. Another industry that has no ethical options. At least not in colonized nations. I had a harder time researching these companies, because if you search “ethics” and “real estate” together, you get a lot of links to the REALTOR code of ethics. Which is not what I was looking for.

The best I can do here are a few weak suggestions, then (you guessed it) the plea to look locally. Even under one brand, not all offices are equal! See which offices in the area you’re buying/selling in give back to the community.

  • Redfin pays their agents a salary on top of a commission. (I’ve never made real estate commission money before, but I can say with absolute certainty, giving your workers a salary is 1,000% better than making them rely on commissions alone. Maybe even 2,000%.)
  • Coldwell Banker has a whole philanthropy arm, so you may find many of their offices give to their communities.
  • I know at least some Century 21 offices do.
  • eXp, which I had never heard of before this research, does not have a physical office space. Which I suppose is weird for real estate, but as someone who supports remote work, I think it’s neat.
Marge Simpson holding a potato, saying "I just think they're neat!" As she says this, she lifts the potato to eye level and looks at it.

Siemens

What it is: Smart infrastructure, appliances, and medical equipment.

Why it’s a target: It’s been contracted to build the Euro-Asia Interconnector.

What to use instead: I had a bit of a hard time with this one, because I’m not entirely sure what counts as comparable.

Also, there don’t seem to be many good options. For example, for “smart infrastructure”:

As far as appliances, EC, SE, and GSG all agree Miele is a good pick. SE also grades Black + Decker and Bellini well. EC recommends avoiding Whirlpool because a line of dryers caused a bunch of house fires and they dragged their feet on the recall. GSG adds Amica to their top picks.

The medical equipment Siemens is selling looks to be hospital-level stuff, not the types of things individual consumers would be buying. Because of that, I haven’t delved into this at all. (If you’re a buyer for a hospital and I’ve let you down, contact me and I will gladly do paid research for you.)

SodaStream

What it is: Sparkling water makers.

Why it’s a target: It’s an Israeli company with a long history of anti-Indigenous discrimination.

What to use instead: I found a few brands that don’t come up on any of my chosen reference sites, so I’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself. But I was rather excited to hear that DrinkMate carbonates more than just water. (And if you’re switching, it looks like you can use the same CO2 cartridges!)

Other alternatives include Aarke and MySoda.

Divestment and Exclusion Targets and Alternatives

Consumer boycott targets. 11 logos laid in a grid: Elbit Systems, CAF, Volvo, Barclays, JCB, Intel, Cat, TKH Security, HD Hyundai, Chevron, and Hik Vision. Red, black, white, and green border around the image.

Elbit Systems

What it is: Arms dealer.

Why it’s a target: It arms the IOF.

What to use instead: Nothing. Don’t buy weapons. Don’t invest in weapons. Stop committing wars.

CAF

What it is: Rail and railway equipment manufacturer.

Why it’s a target: It built, and now services, the Jerusalem Light Rail, which services the illegal Israeli settlements in Jerusalem.

What to use instead: This is about when I realized I was in over my head on this project. (Don’t worry, I did this section last. The pressure and organic boycott alternatives should still be helpful.) I don’t know the first thing about high speed rail, but if you want to invest in a company, or need to build a railway, you could start here.

Volvo (and HD Hyundai, CAT, and JCB)

What they are: Construction (and destruction) equipment.

Why they’re a target: Israel has been using these brands to destroy Palestinian homes and businesses, and reconstructing settler homes and businesses, in Palestine.

What to use instead: These obviously aren’t things the average consumer would be buying (hence not being a consumer target), but because of this, my resources didn’t have much to say. Looking up some alternative companies, most of them do seem to have ties with Israel. Just … make sure you do your due diligence before investing in or purchasing equipment.

Barclays

What it is: Bank & loan.

Why it’s a target: It invests in and underwrites loans to weapons and military technology manufacturers.

What to use instead: If you need insurance, see my recommendations under AXA, above. I also mentioned my recommendation for banking up there, but I’ll say it again: local is best. National and international banks, in my experience, have very few scruples. Credit unions often give better rates, anyway.

Guide to socially responsible investing from Green America.

Intel

What it is: Computer processors.

Why it’s a target: It invests in Israel’s apartheid and has a plant on stolen Palestinian land.

What to use instead: AMD is a popular alternative, but it looks like they’re opening an R&D center in Tel Aviv. Other companies include Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), Qualcomm, Advanced RISC Machine (ARM) [Warning: Animation with flashing], and Broadcom.

TKH Security (and HIK Vision)

What they are: Surveillence equipment manufacturers.

Why they’re a target: Israel uses both brands to surveille Palestinians.

What to use instead: I’m hesitant to suggest supporting any surveillance companies, because so many rely on access to people’s personal info and lives. You could just buy a go pro and set it in your window, or something. If you really need surveillance or really want to invest in it, here’s a list to check out.

Chevron (Reprise)

What it is: Fossil fuels.

Why it’s a target: It’s extracting gas off the Palestinian coast, assisting Israel in keeping this resource and the resulting profit from Palestine.

What to use instead: No ethical options, blah blah blah. (If you want my whole spiel, see the original under consumer targets.) Long story short, ExxonMobil and BP are the worst, Shell may be the least worst.

As far as investing, let’s start investing in eco-friendly energy like solar, wind, and hydropower, okay?

Pressure Targets and Alternatives

Consumer boycott targets. 7 logos laid out roughly in a grid: Google, Amazon, AirBNB, Booking dot com, Expedia, Disney, and Teva. Red, black, white, and green border around the image.

Note about pressure targets: This *can* include boycotts, if reasonable alternatives exist. I know for a lot of people Amazon can be the only accessible option for shopping (for example). But there are other ways of putting pressure on these companies, such as adding your name to the #NoTechForApartheid campaign.

More ways to pressure companies include letter writing campaigns, coordinated social media campaigns, protesting outside their business locations, and shutting down their operations with disruption campaigns.

Google (and Amazon)

What they are: Technology overlords (among other things.)

Why they’re a target: They provide cloud tech to Israel and the IOF.

What to use instead: I tried to find alternatives in every area Google and Amazon provide services in, but it’s a lot. If I’ve missed something, let me know.

Cloud storage: If you’re already using Microsoft, you may as well use OneDrive, or if you already use Apple, you could use iCloud. Other options include:

Books/eBooks/Audiobooks: EC recommends EBooks.com for ebooks and XigXag for audiobooks. Libro.fm also does audiobooks. For print books, sites like Bookshop.org and IndieBound let you order books from local/independent shops. Better World Books sells new and used books, and donates books to folks in need with every purchase.

EReaders: EC recommends Kobo. Barnes & Noble’s Nook is another option.

Book self-publishing: Lulu pays authors better than Amazon. Beware: If you’ve used Amazon’s proprietary cover sizing (like 5.25″ x 8″), you’ll need a new cover because Lulu doesn’t support that size. (This is the only reason I haven’t switched, myself.)

Phones: Fairphone scores well on both EC and SE. LG isn’t great, but they’re better than other options. Remember to keep your phone as long as possible and buy used/refurbished phones! (Recall that lithium batteries contribute to human rights abuses in Congo.) Back Market does refurbished tech, but it’s out-of-house, so check seller reviews before buying.

Streaming movies and TV: EC recommends Flix Premeire (movies), Mubi (movies), and All 4 (movies and TV, free).

Streaming music: From Greenpeace’s 2017 Click Clean report [PDF], iTunes is the greenest, with regards to energy (but is still Apple). Spotify got a D, and NPR, Pandora, and SoundCloud all got Fs. From a pay-the-artist standpoint, Bandcamp lets artists make more via sales, but the top paying streamers are Napster (53 streams to make $1), iHeartRadio (59 streams to make $1), and Tidal (80 streams to make $1). Note on Tidal: they got an F from SE.

Laptops/Tablets: See HP, above.

Email: Free options, while often limited, include:

Video conferencing: If you already use Slack or Discord, you can use Huddles or Video Chat (respectively). I can’t recommend Zoom (they’ve come out in support of Israel), but other free options are Dialpad Meetings, TrueConf, and FreeConference.

Search engine:

  • Ecosia gets a B on SE, and they plant a tree for every search you see. (Sorry, I had a rhyming thing going there. It’s not 1:1, I don’t believe. But they do plant trees, the more people search.)
  • Yep.com offers a revenue-sharing program for content creators.
  • SwissCows, Gibiru, and Brave tout privacy.
  • International options include Baidu, Yandex, Sogou, and Naver.

Product reviews: Consumer Reports requires a subscription, but is pretty well trusted. Free options include:

I know some Heart magazine brands have their own product review pages, but I’m not recommending Hearst due to their ties with Israel.

Retailers: On top of the apparel recommendations above (see Puma), and the other offerings from sites such as DoneGood.co and Swiss Impact Store, some other options (that get EC’s Best Buy distinction) include:

Check out What’s Good, or see more greener alternatives to Amazon from Green America.

AirBnB (and Booking.com and Expedia)

What they are: Travel booking and rentals.

Why they’re a target: They offer rentals on stolen Palestinian land.

What to use instead: First off, if you’re a colonizer, be very careful about where you’re traveling because that could be unethical in and of itself and no alternative companies will help you. That said, try Halal Booking or FairBnB.coop.

Disney

What it is: Entertainment overlord.

Why it’s a target: It owns Marvel Studios, which promotes a “superhero” that personifies Israeli apartheid.

What to use instead: For streaming movies/TV, see that section under Google & Amazon, immediately above. For theme parks, I don’t know why you’d want to go in the middle of a pandemic, but if you need somewhere to take the kids (or yourself) to blow off some steam and have fun, I guess there’s Six Flags or Universal Studios. If you’re in the New England (US) area, I liked Canobie Lake Park as a kid.

Don’t do Sea World. They torture animals for fun and profit. (Zoos are bad for this reason, too.) Personally, I prefer national parks, but I know that won’t always cut it for kids. (I did always find science museums fun, which I guess are worse, pandemic-wise. Make sure you mask up!)

To be honest, this is probably another “local is best” situation. Look around your area or the area you’re planning to travel to. Sometimes you’ll find “hidden gems” owned by locals.

Teva

What it is: Pharmaceutical company.

Why it’s a target: It’s an Israeli company, operating on stolen Palestinian land, and exploiting the Palestinian market.

What to use instead: This may be a good candidate for pressure over boycott, because—in the US, at least—we’re at the mercy of what our insurance covers. Our major brands here are evil for their own reasons, anyway. A lot of us need the most affordable, accessible options to live, so don’t feel bad if you’re stuck with the bad guys here. It’s not a personal failing, it’s a systemic one.

Organic Boycott Targets and Alternatives

Consumer boycott targets. 6 logos laid out in a grid: McDonalds, Domino's Pizza, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Papa John's Pizza, and Wix. Red, black, white, and green border around the image.

McDonald’s (and Burger King)

What they are: Fast food (burgers).

Why they’re a target: Free food to the IOF, locations on stolen Palestinian land.

What to use instead: I won’t recommend Wendy’s (for reasons), and I think most other burger chains in the US are regional. Five Guys is almost everywhere now, it seems, and maybe A&W, too. But Jack in the Box is somewhat limited in locations. (I’m not recommending In-N-Out due to their pro-Covid policy.)

If you want to branch out from burgers, well, I can’t recommend KFC or Taco Bell, because parent company Yum Brands invests in Israeli startups. Subway scores well on EC, but is linked to deforestation (and doesn’t seem to have a very solid sustainability plan).

Other Taco joints include Chipotle, Qdoba, Taco Bueno (regional), and Del Taco (limited locations). If you’re in Massachusetts and dig enormous burritos, may I recommend Bueno y Sano?

For fellow New Englanders, I always liked D’Angelo’s (before Subway became so ubiquitous). And there’s Firehouse Subs and Jimmy John’s.

And for fried chicken (since I seem to have expanded the boycott list 😅) there’s Church’s. (Popeyes is affiliated with BK.)

And, of course, if you’re able to and have the time and ingredients, you can always make your own. Invite people over, have a cookout, make it fun. You won’t even notice the missing subpar fries and soggy buns.

Domino’s Pizza (and Pizza Hut and Papa John’s)

What they are: Fast food (pizza).

Why they’re a target: Free food to the IOF, locations on stolen Palestinian land.

What to use instead: Other pizza chain options are Papa Murphy’s, Cici’s, California Pizza Kitchen, MOD Pizza, Little Caesar’s, Marco’s, Mellow Mushroom, Pizza Ranch (midwest to west), and Papa Gino’s (New England).

Frozen pizza options include California Pizza Kitchen (warning: they’re apparently owned by Nestle), Digiorno, and Sweet Earth.

Local places can often be great finds, too. (If you’re in central/MetroWest MA, I recommend Table Top Pizza in Franklin if you like thin crust and the Framingham Baking Company if you like nice, thick, soft crust and square slices.)

And, of course, you can always make your own with the time and ability.

Wix

What it is: Website builder and host.

Why it’s a target: It’s an Israeli company. And it made this monstrosity.

What to use instead: I use WordPress. Other alternatives include Wuilt, SquareSpace, WebFlow, Weebly, and Framer.

Here’s a list of green web hosting options from Green America.

Roundup of Research Resources

All information on the BDS movement comes from their website, BDSMovement.net. The consumer boycott information is on this page.

If you have another company you want to look up (or see for yourself if what I’ve said above is true; I encourage double checking!) these are the databases and lists I used:

If you find something I missed, or have your own additions or subtractions, feel free to let me know and I’ll update this list.