Are you comfortable doing business with the Koch Brothers, and giving them more money for their right wing political lobbying? Do you want to buy in to Monsanto’s efforts to modify and aggressively patent the genetics of staple food crops?
Those are personal decisions in a free market economy. But to be a rational consumer, you need more information than can be found on product packaging. Since large corporations often grow by absorbing smaller brands, often you have no idea where your dollars are ending up.
Los Angeles-based programmer Ivan Pardo would like to change that with a new app, called “Buycott”.
According to Forbes:
You can scan the barcode on any product and the free app will trace its ownership all the way to its top corporate parent company, including conglomerates like Koch Industries.
Once you’ve scanned an item, Buycott will show you its corporate family tree on your phone screen. Scan a box of Splenda sweetener, for instance, and you’ll see its parent, McNeil Nutritionals, is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
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.
Released earlier this month, the app is available on iPhone and Android. However, Forbes reports that high interest in Buycott has brought to light several bugs in the system that need fixing.
Nonetheless, I’ve always believed that an informed consumer is an empowered consumer. That’s why I support efforts to legislate the labelling of ingredients or processes that consumers are concerned about. Sure, you could argue (for example) that food irradiation is harmless or that the public safety benefits far outweigh any risks involved. But if a consumer wants to know what products have been irradiated, he or she can make an informed choice.
Now that brands are forced to do most of their public relations online, corporate reputations have become more important than ever. With increasingly educated consumers, you can expect to see more apps like this entering the conversation and having an influence.