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It’s a form of social activism. It was coined last year by Brent Schulkin, a US environmentalist based in San Francisco. When people carrotmob, they shop at a small business, specially chosen for its good environmental practices, in large numbers on the same day. But Mr Schulkin has introduced a twist: he asks the business to invest a proportion of that day’s takings in energy-efficient improvements at its stores.

The second part of the name is based on flash mob. The first part borrows the idea of using a carrot rather than a stick to encourage behaviour. It’s a form of what’s been called a buycott or a procott, the opposite of a boycott, a form of collective action in which people choose to buy from firms whose values — in areas such as social justice and environmental protection — reflect and support their own.

You might call Carrotmob “Flash Mob 2.0,” since it combines the whimsy of those events with the Sierra Club’s seriousness of purpose, hitting the sweet spot between the Bay Area’s two dominant poses: pointless irony and earnest do-gooderism.

San Francisco Magazine, Jun. 2008

CarrotMobbing emerged in the US earlier this year. It uses the “carrot” of consumer buying rather than the “stick” of boycotting or bad publicity to encourage ethical business. Alone, our consumer choices make a minimal impact, but together and organised we unlock a bigger bargaining power.

Guardian, 18 Sep. 2008

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 31 January 2009.