But Mr. Schrad misfires when he argues that the “symbolic” gesture of a boycott is bound to backfire in Russia’s conservative antigay culture. Short-term backlash is inevitable, but even an economically ineffective boycott will keep the issue alive at Russian dinner tables — where the real long-term change will occur — and keep Russians from wrongly assuming that homophobic policies will not cost them cultural standing in the world.
Mr. Schrad’s condescending alternative — that those sympathetic to the cause of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Russians reframe the issue within the context of the country’s “endemic corruption and the weak rule of law” — offers no practical course of action to those singled out for systematic discrimination and physical violence. Sadly for the makers of Stolichnaya, switching to another brand of vodka is the most accessible way for consumers to register their discontent.
Salem, Mass., Aug. 21, 2013
The writer is director of social research and shareholder advocacy at Clean Yield Asset Management, an investment advisory firm that advocates for more responsible corporate social and environmental policies.
Clean Yield will be engaging with Olympic sponsors in coming weeks to urge them to use their own leverage and presence at the Sochi games to support Russia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered citizens and oppose the crackdown on their rights.