Sunday, October 19, 2014

220. How to shop by political leaning

Quite obviously, and for a couple of reasons, you will never see me inside of a Chick-fil-A. Nor will you see me inside of a Hobby Lobby store.

I just cannot support the political views of those corporations. I also do not like to support companies that engage in animal testing, use sweatshops, or damage the environment. The list of companies and issues goes on and on.

The problem is that it can be a daunting task to keep up with which companies have similar political values and engage in social responsibility. Fortunately, there is an app for that!

First seen on “The Colbert Report,” I’ve learned of a couple of apps that can be used to allow the customer to know where their money will eventually end up. Colbert introduced me and his viewers to “BuyPartisian.” Another somewhat similar app that I found for android is called Buycott.

They are comparable in that they alert customers where their money is going, although BuyPartisian is more politically-driven while Buycott is more issue-driven.

BuyPartisian will tell you what percentage of political donations by the company, its executives, even workers, goes to Republican or Democratic political candidates.

For example, it will let you know whether Apple or Starbucks donates more money, and how much more money, to each political party. Although it is common for companies to donate to both sides of the aisle, there is still a strategy of donating more to candidates and political parties that best represents the company’s issue. Simply scan the barcode of a product and the app will provide this information.

In Buycott, you can pick issues important to you (called campaigns) and after scanning the product, it will alert if it conflicts with any of those campaigns. There many campaigns along the political and social spectrum and you choose as many as you like.

The app will also tell you company information and provide a “family tree” since of course so many companies are actually part of much larger companies. One commentary notes that it was depressing to realize that the same eight parent companies make almost everything.

Some examples are campaigns avoiding companies that engage in sweatshops, animal testing and factory farming — or those companies that participate as a Washington Redskins or Michael Vick sponsor.

Other campaigns include supporting companies that value marijuana legalization and the Second Amendment.

There are even detailed campaigns for things such as “Boycott Absurd Arbitration Clauses,” “Executive Pay is Greater than 300 Times the U.S. Mean or Full-Time Employee,” and even “Stopping Common Core.”

For example, a quick scan of the Gatorade sitting next to me revealed one conflicting campaign: “Demanding GMO Labeling.” It further lets me know that Gatorade (actually its parent company, PepsiCo) donated an amazing $2.145 million to defeat Proposition 37 in California, which wanted to require GMO labeling. Companies such as Pepsi and Monsanto dedicated more than $46 million to defeat the ballot initiative. I guess this is my last Gatorade.

This is quite powerful information for the consumer, especially if choosing between two similar products. It truly allows consumers to vote with your wallet. After all, that is the direction of American democracy. Money wins elections.

Granted, if you are against almost everything, like my wife and me, it can be time-consuming and quite inconvenient searching purchases. But it can also lead to greater sense of social consciousness in knowing what my money is actually supporting. In that sense, I can feel a little better about my purchases.

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