Any life form based on exponential growth on a finite planet is doomed. Most economies around the world are now some form of capitalism. The foundation of capitalism is exponential growth. The driving engine of capitalism is the corporation. Corporations are now the epicenter of economic and political power around the world. The cornerstone of any attempt to create a sustainable society must address the anti-social and anti-democratic behavior of these organizations. It will require efforts at the highest level — revamping corporate law, passing national level legislation, enlightened decision-making by the supreme court, and perhaps even an amendment to the constitution. It will likely require massive public outcry and sustained grassroots action to overcome the corporate center of gravity that currently overwhelms our political system.
So, yes, sharpen your pens and write your elected officials. Get those protest signs painted and get out on the street. Vote, and vote often.
There is also much we can do in our daily lives to point corporations in the right direction. Corporations do respond to the demands of consumers. Look at the morphing menu found at the fast food giant Mcdonald’s. Due to rising pressure the chain did away with the “super size me” gimmick given the health implications. Mcdonald’s also responded to the public’s demand for healthier foods by adding more salads, fruit, smaller sandwiches and oatmeal to the menu. I had stopped going to Micky D’s years ago but began going again (occasionally, usually when traveling) since I could now get a decent salad there or at least a lower calorie meal.
Currently, corporations are rewarded only for providing the lowest price. The success of Walmart is the clearest indicator of this. Many of us buy our clothes there, or our TVs, or our groceries even though we know that walmart treats it employees poorly, and that some (many?) of the products are made by people working under deplorable working conditions. As a consumer it is very hard to know which products were made with safe ingredients, or if they employees were paid a livable wage, or if the product was produced in a way that is damaging to the environment. At the moment there is no easy way to reward companies for good behavior – in fact these companies are often penalized because their products may carry a higher price.
Well, help is on the way. There is a growing movement afoot to bring this type of information to the consumer at the point of sale. So when you are standing at the store you will instantly, and easily compare products on their social impact, their health impact, and their environmental impact. As a first step in this direction check out the GoodGuide here. At this website you can find the social/health/environmental rating on a growing list of products.
I went to this website and looked up most of the personal hygiene products that I use — toothpaste, shampoo, soap, etc. My entire life I have used Crest Toothpaste but based on the information I found here I decided to switch.
In these screen shots (click on the image to see it larger) I only showed the summary. The website has detailed information for each category to indicate how the score was determined.
After I switched to my new brand of toothpaste I went to the Crest website and sent them a message explaining that I had switched and the reason why. I mentioned that I had used their product most of my life and would be happy to switch back if they could improve their product score. I sent them a link to their product at the GoodGuide website. I explained that I am looking to support companies that produce products that are safe, environmentally responsible, and made by companies that treat their employees well.
I received a response from a Crest representative who explained that she will pass my concerns on to the management team.
There is another great website that focuses on cosmetics called Deep Skin, that rates skin care, makeup, hair care, nails, eye care, feminine hygiene, dental and oral hygiene, and fragrance products based on their risk to your health.
Start the revolution today. Don’t shop.
When you must buy, look beyond price, and consider the true cost to society when making a purchase. Use your purchase to reward responsible companies and help create a world we can be proud to live in.