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Brief Published: 16 May 2013

Buycott App Aids Ethical Consumerism


A new app is helping consumers avoid indirectly spending money with companies they find objectionable by exposing the track records and corporate family trees of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands.

The brainchild of Los Angeles-based developer Ivan Pardo, the Buycott app allows users to create or join campaigns, add blacklisted companies to its database and rally others to their cause. To initiate a campaign, they must provide an explanation of the grounds for their boycott and substantiate it with source material.

When shoppers scan a product’s barcode with their smartphone using the free app, Buycott will look up the product, determine what brand it belongs to, and trace the company that owns that brand. It will then cross-reference the campaigns the user has joined, and alert them if the scanned product conflicts with any of these actions. ‘Boycott Nestle Products’ and ‘Demand GMO Labelling’ are currently among the most popular causes on the platform.

In a market where individual brands may bare no resemblance to their parent groups – contrast the artisan, premium Green & Black’s chocolate label with owner Cadbury’s, for instance – Buycott presents a key tool for demystifying complex conglomerates.

There is also a positive upshot to this transparency for both brands and consumers, as shoppers can also use the information to buy into companies that share their values. For instance, anyone who supports gay marriage will find upon scanning a bottle of Absolut vodka or a bag of Starbucks coffee beans that these brands back it too.

“For me, it was critical to allow users to create campaigns because I don't think it's Buycott's role to tell people what to buy,” Pardo explained. “We simply want to provide a platform that empowers consumers to make well-informed purchasing decisions.”

Buycott is a prime example of how social media can be harnessed to hold brands to account and allow conscientious shoppers to make more informed choices about where their money ultimately goes. Our reports Positive Provenance, Honestby.com Promotes Provenance and Brand Transparency also explore the growing demand for brands to prove their ideals run deep.