“[Never forget] that the cash register is the daily voting booth in democratic capitalism. We don’t have to buy products that destroy or from companies that harm or are unresponsive. If we want business to express a full range of social and environmental values in their daily commercial activities, then we, too, will have to express a full range of values and respond to the presence or absence of principle by how we act in the marketplace.” –Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce.
This is the very principle that has been espoused by Clay Ward, Lucy Mendel and all the terrific students and volunteers working right now on Buy It Like You Mean It. Sometimes I bemoan the lack of control that individuals have over big corporations, which have become the dominant force in our global society. Sometimes I forget that every one of us has the opportunity to voice our opinions, every single day. If I feel uncertain about my power in the voting booth, the one thing I am sure about is the power of the almighty dollar.
Right now, undercutting the power of the individual’s dollar is the fact that consumers do not have access to convenient, accurate information about the social and environmental impact of companies in a product’s supply chain. When I buy a popsicle, what is my money really supporting? Toxic pesticides, maltreated workers and clear-cut forests that get turned into popsicle sticks? That’s not very tasty. If we are to shape our world in the information age, we must demand and create an informed market feedback system. Access to unbiased information should be as important to our society as access to clean water.
Buy It Like You Mean It, a nonprofit, is dedicated to creating that information system which will enfranchise the individual and enable us to make socially responsible and environmentally friendly purchases. Their technology, developed by the MIT community and volunteers, will someday enable you to go to the grocery store, take a photo of a product barcode with your cell phone, and immediately receive a score based on your preferences which indicates how the product’s impact matches your values. They’ve started with the chocolate industry.
I really believe that these guys will change the world, by giving us back our daily vote!
Incidentally, Buy It Like You Mean It is having a launch party at the Taza Chocolate Factory on Tuesday, June 3. Check out their site, and if you’re in the area, come to the launch party Tuesday night!