Here’s a cool new toy. A popular article on Forbes today details a new smart phone app called “Buycott,” which is catching the attention of shoppers who want to make sure their money spent on groceries and other basic products isn’t enriching corporations with bad records on social and environmental responsibility.
Take Koch Industries. Greenpeace has written extensively about the Koch brothers’ $67 million in support for groups that deny climate change science and promote industries that pollute our air and water, our politics, and our health. The millions of dollars going to groups like ALEC and the State Policy Network also serves to break unions, privatize education, and water down healthcare reform.
Those are good reasons not to give a dime to the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, who own the vast majority of Koch Industries’ private stock. Yet many consumers may not realize that buying products like Quilted Northern toilet paper or Brawny paper towels contributes to Koch profits through their giant pulp and paper subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific. Nor perhaps did the incoming Obama Administration realize that the 2009 inaugural carpet was made by a Koch subsidiary called INVISTA. What a crummy business deal–the President buys your carpet, then you coordinate hundreds of millions of dollars from billionaires determined to defeat his re-election bid…if only there had been an app!
The President’s staff aren’t alone. You may well have Koch products in your house. INVISTA also makes the Lycra fabric that goes into our yoga pants and bathing suits, while INVISTA’s Coolmax fiber winds up in all sorts of outdoor gear–an ironic twist for those passionate about preserving the outdoor environments they play in.
Koch is just one example. People who care about various causes can now use the Buycott app to make sure they aren’t supporting companies that spend money against their own values. Forbes explains:
Even more impressively, you can join user-created campaigns to boycott business practices that violate your principles rather than single companies. One of these campaigns, Demand GMO Labeling, will scan your box of cereal and tell you if it was made by one of the 36 corporations that donated more than $150,000 to oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food.
Buycott can also steer consumers toward companies that have openly supported things the buyer cares about:
There are Buycott campaigns encouraging shoppers to support brands that have, say, openly backed LGBT rights. You can scan a bottle of Absolut vodka or a bag of Starbucks coffee beans and learn that both companies have come out for equal marriage.
Of course, David Koch is now a public supporter of gay marriage, so we’ll see how Buycott manages when companies are involved in both progressive and sinister issues, as most large companies are.
Buycott will need some time to fully develop–the explosion in attention is currently overwhelming the app’s servers and giving its developer a list of bugs to fix. As wrinkles are ironed out and as more people upload product and company information into Buycott, it will only become a more powerful tool for consumer advocates. It feels pretty fancy to pull a product off the shelf, scan the bar code, and see what information other people on Buycott have crowd-sourced (ie–you help can help make Buycott more comprehensive by contributing to its product database and ‘campaigns’ yourself).
Cheers to cool technology. And boo to the Koch brothers denial of climate science!