Summary. As individual citizens, it’s difficult to complete with large corporations for the loyalty of our political representatives. However, by choosing to spend money on ethical products, services, companies, manufacturers, organization, and vendors, you can powerfully determine what kind of world we live in. In the world of investing, this is referred to as Socially Responsible Investing. The same principles apply to our purchasing decisions.
Politicians Listen to corporate donors, but the corporations listen to consumers. Politicians are supported, influenced, and controlled by large businesses, organizations, and institutions. Most candidates are elected because of the funding of a few large donors. Those few large donors eventually control the candidates they help elect. However, most businesses know that they succeed or fail based on how well they respond to customer demands. For this reason, we vote every day with our time and money. What you and others do with available time and money sends a collective democratic message to corporate America. It is through this financial democratic process that the soul of corporate America is programmed, for good or bad. Ultimately, we are the collective soul of the big donors (large corporations, organizations, and institutions). We will determine the elections based on how we have spent our time and money. This is how marketplace democracy works. Organizations like Buyblue.org and WorkingAssets.com are based on this principle. The CaliBamboo.com website inspires people to purchase bamboo and declares, “Cast a vote for a sustainable future,” as a reminder that our dollars equal votes.
Business Responds to Politics. Once the tide is turned, and the political winds change, more businesses respond in like manner. For example, after Barack Obama was elected president in November 2008, Wal-Mart immediately began a campaign to align itself with a new more green and liberal American consumerism.
An Encouraging Example. Sometimes seeing a big picture example can help us realize how our small personal choices collectively have a larger impact. Consider the following positive example of how individuals can influence the marketplace democracy:
- People begin purchasing and riding bikes in large numbers. Others see them and are inspired to do the same. This is human nature.
- The sales of bikes and accessories go up nationally.
- The companies that manufacture and sell bicycles have more money to help elect politicians, such as Earl Blumenauer of Oregon’s 3rd District, who support bicycles and bicycle friendly legislation.
- When those politicians get elected (and elected again), this begins to build a base of political support for bicycle friendly urban planning and communities with more trails.
- The bicycle and cycling accessory companies have more money to ensure that their products are shown prominently in movies and in other media. This results in greater sales increases.
- Cities begin to have four bicycle shops where only one existed before.
- With all of the extra bicycle shops in local communities, people begin purchasing and riding bikes in larger numbers.
- Go to step #1 above.
This example is one of many that are already happening in many communities. So, if you are saying to yourself, “We need more bike trails. I’ll vote for someone this fall who supports bike trails…” but you are driving a car, you may not get an opportunity to vote for someone who supports trails.
Difficult Choices. The cartoon below, by Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com, illustrates the challenges facing consumers who want their purchases of products and services to reflect and support their ethics, values, goals, principles, and hopes for a better world. How would you buy if presented with the choices presented in the illustration?
- Support organic farming, but not locally – increasing global warming and our dependency on fossil fuel.
- Buy locally, but not supporting good environmental stewardship or ethical labor practices.
- Buy the least expensive product regardless of the impact, but use the savings to contribute to causes you believe in.
The correct answer in today’s global marketplace may be to support organic farming and ethical labor practices no matter how far away you need to go to find them. Why? If consumers simply refuse to support unethical labor and environmental contamination, local vendors will have no choice but to comply.
Document History. This document was first published on 20081121at1737. Four years later, on 20121126mo1423 the Anne Lappe quote was added with a graphic since it seemed to effectively convey the general message of this document.