Buycott's new features allow you to tell your friends what you boycott and why

Buycott app
Screen capture Buycott

Just in time for last minute holiday shopping sprees, the app that helps you vote with your wallet gets an updated, and more vocal, version.

We've been saying it at TreeHugger for years, but it's worth another reminder as we close in on the last days of holiday shopping, that we can, and should, be voting with our dollars. It's important that governments and organizations use policies and regulations to work on environmental and health issues, and we've come a long way over the years through legislation, but there's another, and perhaps just as potent, avenue for change, and that's through the power of our consumer dollar.

Every time we choose a more sustainable option over one with environmental, social, or health concerns (or all three, in some cases), we are essentially voting in favor of it, and every time we choose to boycott a product or company that is at odds with our ethics and principles, we remove our financial support from that company's bottom line. Granted, it may only be a few dollar's worth of profit from you that the company loses, but when combined with the efforts of others, sometimes many others, and amplified by social media, it can impact both the company's finances and its public image.

But how does one know which products and companies are questionable, given that the marketing and advertising campaigns are carefully groomed and scripted to make us buy stuff, and not to make us think about supply chains and environmental and social responsibility, or about the political affiliation and financial donations made by the CEO or company directors. It's not like you can look on the back of the label and read that the product was made by a subsidiary of a Koch brothers holding, or Monsanto, or with slave labor (seriously).

However, thanks to the Buycott app, you can pull out your phone, fire up the app, scan the barcode, and find out almost instantly if your choice of products, or the brand that makes it, is part of a business that operates in a way that goes against your ethics, or that has a political agenda that runs counter to your own. Since its launch in 2013, Buycott has continued to evolve and improve, and now boasts more than 1.3 million users, who refer to the app for more transparency in the marketplace.

One notable recent addition to the app is the ability to speak out about your choices, both on social media and directly to the companies themselves, which is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. After all, just not buying something, whether because of a formal boycott or simply because of your personal opinions about the product, is one way to exercise the power of your wallet, but sharing the reasons you do so with your peers and the public at large could have a lot more impact than simply avoiding the purchase.

Buycott founder Ivan Pardo told MTV News that the original version of the app was more focused on getting informed, whereas the new version is more action-oriented:

"I think the “taking action” aspect is what the original app was missing, and I think hopefully we’re delivering on the promise you can actually vote with your wallet rather than just learn about products.

We don’t just want to be a way for you to feel good about your decision, but we also want you to actually create change through those decisions and a big part of that is communicating your motivations and decisions to the company."

The app has 'campaigns' to participate in, all crowdsourced from its users, who can choose to support these campaigns about issues such as GMO labeling, women's rights, animal welfare, fair trade, etc., with the app informing users about which companies that have low marks in these areas are behind the products they buy. Often it's not as simple as looking at a brand name, because many brands are under the same parent company, and the corporate connections aren't obvious, so Buycott helps users to identify the 'family tree' of the companies they support with their shopping choices. Users are also informed of which brands have a good record on those issues so they can make an informed decision to support ethical companies.

Buycott is free, and runs on both iOS and Android platforms, as well as being available online.

Tags: Apps | Shopping

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