Did you know that buying Georgia-Pacific products like Brawny paper towels, or Angel Soft toilet paper, stuffs the pockets of Koch Industries? Even simply picking up yoga pants containing Lycra (read: almost all of them), or investing in a smart Stainmaster carpet purchase, mean profits for the Koch brothers via their textiles subsidiary Invista, purchased from DuPont. Depending on how you lean, that could be great news and big business you’re proud to support, or a pretty horrifying revelation. But when a corporation’s politics matter to the consumer, it’s not always easy to follow the money and see whose wallet is getting fatter. Darcy Burner wanted to change that, and she wasn’t alone.
In a keynote speech last year, the former Microsoft programmer proposed a smartphone app allowing shoppers to swipe barcodes and learn which corporations, and their causes, are profiting from our purchases. Burner had a mock-up ready, but while she was searching for a behind the scenes team to make it functional, a Los Angeles start-up was already pounding out Buycott. “The app itself is the work of one Los Angeles based 26-year-old freelance programmer, Ivan Pardo” according to the Huffington Post, ” who has devoted the last 16 months to Buycott. “It’s been completely bootstrapped up to this point,” he said.
Released earlier this month, Buycott is available for free download on both iPhone or Android platforms. Savvy shoppers simply scan the barcode on a product to trace its often-tricky family tree “all the way to its top corporate parent company, including conglomerates like Koch Industries.”
User-created campaigns can also zero in on unsavory business practices, in addition to single companies. “One of these campaigns,” for example, “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.” Hello Monsanto, goodbye Frosted Flakes (listed among the top ten cereals most likely to contain GMO’s).
Would you use an app like Buycott to help help support your personal politics and see where your hard-earned goes? Can you afford not to know what issues you’re buying into? — Casandra Armour