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Thursday, August 22, 2013

How to Shop in a Socially Responsible Manner

Many people use the internet to find out about events or decide where they want to spend their money and what they want to spend it on.  This offers a few opportunities for activists.  We can boycott companies that utilize child labor or unfair labor practices, and we can find companies that treat their employees well and contribute to society in positive ways.  Another tactic that has proven successful to change policy is online petitions.  Petitions can be very localized and specific or very broad in their goals.   They certainly don't always work, but even when they don't, it is bringing attention to issues that otherwise might be ignored.

Kita doesn't like that smell.
Kita thinks unethical companies stink!
Step 1: Identify the very worst corporations.  While I linked to Oxfam, you can also do your own searches and investigations.  These are the most likely to pay their employees terrible wages while bringing in millions of dollars of benefits for their top executives.  Do you give your money to them in any way?  Try completely eliminating your purchases from one of the companies on this list first.  This can be particularly tough in a rough economy, but even if everyone makes only a few concessions in their buying habits, a huge difference can be made in corporate policies.

Step 2:  Check to see if there are any current petitions circulating to change the business practices of any of the corporation's that you identified.  Two places to begin are at Change.org and at Care2's petition site.  You can type in the name of the companies on each site and see if there are any petitions for you to sign.  If an issue is particularly important to you, start your own petition and share it with all of your social networks (and ask them to share it with their networks too).

Step 3: Identify the most socially responsible and successful companies.  These companies will likely pay their employees above minimum wage, not have their labor overseas in sweatshops, and make large donations to charities that are also socially responsible.  Is one company on this list a sufficient replacement for the corporation that you decided to eliminate?  If you are particularly supportive of any of the companies' business practices, you can share their website with your social networks to help them generate business, and you can let your friends and family know why you would prefer to give them business over other businesses.

This is only one example of a way to be an activist that requires little time and effort, but can still make you feel good about your actions.  Let me know if you succeed; I'd love to hear your stories and any suggestions that you have to make this list better!