In an age where most large corporations dominate multiple markets generally uncontested, it is a challenge for people to know exactly which brand is owned by which corporation. Corporations lurk behind numerous brand names created through mergers and acquisitions, thus owning companies drastically different in nature than their own industry. It is an even harder task to see what corporations are doing with your money, or if their values align with your own.
Our purchase of everyday items, such as paper towels, may end up funding lobbyists for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and other activities that may conflict with our personal principles. For example, Soft ‘n Gentle toilet paper is owned by Georgia-Pacific Corporation, which is in turn owned by Koch Industries. Koch Industries supports the Keystone XL pipeline (Feldman, 2011), and Greenpeace has estimated that Koch Industries has funded climate denial groups with $61.4 million (Flock, 2012).
With Congress in gridlock, it will prove to be a challenging task for the government to enact laws to mandate transparency about corporate ownership (and lobbying interests) on consumer products. Luckily, Apple wasn’t wrong when they said “There’s an app for that.”
Buycott is an app that encourages people to scan the barcode of a product, to determine if it has any conflicting interests with personal principles. After the product is scanned, it is analyzed and compared with each person’s chosen campaigns, to see if there are any conflicts. Campaigns include: demanding GMO labeling, say no to Monsanto, avoid Koch Industries, local & sustainable food initiative, and equality for LGBTQ.
Trending campaigns, and their percentage of membership increase, are also visible. Users can also create their own campaigns through Buycott. Each campaigns has an explanation of what is being protesting and why it should matter to you.
Another great feature of the app is the ability to view the entire “family tree” connected to a single item. For example, Splenda sweetener is linked to McNeil Nutritionals, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson. The app also tracks your activity, the campaigns you joined, and the products you scanned. If you scan an unknown product, you can input the product information for Buycott to research.
Download this app, go out and shop, and see if it can give you some control over your life. You have the right to know what you are supporting with your money and what you are putting into your body. You also have the right to show the corporations that what they do with their money isn’t as invisible as they thought it was. True transparency about purchasing decisions might be a powerful incentive for better corporate responsibility in the long run.