FEATURE27 August 2014

Anger management

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Features Impact

Activism is on the rise. Technology can turn consumers into campaigners at the click of a button. How should business leaders respond? Graeme Trayner reports.

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One afternoon back in 2012, Sarah Kavanagh, a teenager in Mississippi, glanced down at a bottle of the soft drink Gatorade.  On the label, she noticed something that struck her as a bit out of place – the odd sounding ingredient ‘brominated vegetable oil’.  Searching online, she found out that the substance was used to make flavourings work, but was alarmed to see the additive was patented as a flame retardant, and could lead – if consumed excessively – to nerve disorders.   

Further enraged by the fact that the substance is banned in the EU and Japan, she then started a petition on the online activism site Change.org, calling on PepsiCo – the makers of Gatorade – to withdraw the ingredient.  And this is where the situation rapidly accelerated – her single action as an individual quickly morphed into 200, 000 signatures online, and a decision by PepsiCo to withdraw the product. Not content with changing just one food and ...