Sure, we can’t shop our way to a utopia of peace, love and understanding. And unfortunately, the wonderfully hand-crafted laptop computer or hand-tooled deluxe kitchen mixer just isn’t widely available on Etsy. (Some things you simply have to buy from a chain outlet. Sigh.) But we can figure out which companies support policies we don’t agree with, and make other choices accordingly.
Once choice might be to stop buying goods or services from corporations whose hiring and employee practices are offensive. Another might be to switch to companies that are truly conscientious about reducing their carbon footprints. And of course, a third choice might be to avoid all companies–as we learned in the recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce controversy over undisclosed political donations–that undermine our democracy and actively support offshoring jobs or undermine affordable healthcare for all.
Best of all would be to give holiday gifts that make a difference, and here, the Natural Resources Defense Council actually has some positive steps you can take.
People interested in ethical consumption can use a brand new tool from the Sunlight Foundation called Influence Explorer. You can search by Person, Industry, or Organization (or even Politicians if that’s relevant to your holiday shopping! Probably not in this case).
Been hankering for a new TV, yet heard that Best Buy donated to an anti-gay candidate in the last election cycle? Here’s more on Best Buy’s political donations (84% to Republicans), and even the government contracts for goods they’ve successfully bid for. (In this case, it looks like government entities that needed consumer electronics and purchased them from Best Buy.)
Be forewarned, though–few companies will have a sparkling clean record. There’s one that’s guaranteed to offend in some way, so be prepared to withdraw entirely from the free market economy and wear homespun clothes and forge the metal for your own bicycles if you want total ethical purity. (And who doesn’t feel like this on occasion?)
On Influence Explorer, the sorting of results can use a little refinement. A search on Apple, Inc., the computer manufacturer, brings up some obviously unrelated results in government contracts secured by apple growers, so the information filter still has limitations inherent to automated search algorithms.
The upshot? In using ethical filters, as in buying products, it’s still caveat emptor. But probably worth it if a clear conscience on big purchases is what you seek.
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