Every time you swipe your credit card you’re voting. The corporations that dominate our economy care about one thing – dollars. So every dollar you spend is a vote for the society you want to live in.

In a market economy corporations react to consumer demands. When enough consumers vote with their dollars firms take notice and change their policies. If you care about the health of the environment then you can choose to patronize firms that support organic farming and utilize clean energy sources.

In the past few years we’ve seen several instances of companies acting more responsibly due to consumer demand. For example:

  • McDonald’s, one of the largest restaurants in the world, made the (costly) decision to only sell free range eggs.  They serve 68 million people a day. And this switch required months of planning to work with suppliers and to build entire farms to handle the switch in policy. They made this decision because the trend in consumer spending is obvious. And they want to get ahead of the masses who are starting to care about where their food comes from.
  • CVS, one of the 10 largest firms in America, recently decided to stop selling cigarettes. This firm gave up hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue because they want to position themselves as a health conscious brand. They’ve known the dangers of smoking for years. And they’ve seen the year over year decline in revenue from tobacco. Now they’ve updated their corporate policy to reflect the changing economic trends.
  • Ben and Jerry’s, a subsidiary of Unilever,  changed restructured as a B Corp – which is a new corporate structure that legally binds a firm to accounting for their shareholders and stakeholders. With this change they are now legally required to account for their impact on the environment and their workers, as well as their profits.
  • H&M, the second largest clothing retailer in the world, has committed to sourcing all its cotton from sustainable sources by 2020. Cotton is one of the dirtiest industries in the world. And H&M has seen the rise in organic, fair trade clothing. They want to cater to eco conscious shoppers – a growing market segment.

Living in the New York City bubble it is easy to forget that not every cafe serves organic fair trade coffee, and grass fed milk. In the past five years these have become nearly ubiquitous — due to consumer demand.

During this election season we are focused on choosing our leader, and there are great conversations about the future of our country.  But lets not forget that we get to choose where we spend our dollars every day. And corporations are paying close attention to our spending habits.

Sean

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