Why's it important to me? When I buy products, I try to be as conscious as possible about the way they were produced. As the end user, they were essentially produced for me-- and so I feel that the items produced in my name should have the most positive or least negative social/environmental impacts possible. It's too easy for everyone down the line to deny any responsibility (the company can say they make their choices because of what I as a consumer/shareholder demand; I could just say "the company makes all the decisions, I just buy things, I can't help it!") So I use rating systems like Climate Counts to be more conscious of what companies are doing, and hence what the effects of my own choices are.
But I also want to tell companies about my values and let them know that there are things more important to me than money, so they don't make choices based on the false assumption that my #1 priority is the lowest prices (or the highest stock returns.) There are a few different ways I try to send that message:
- Buying from companies that do better in the areas I care about. I think this is important, partially just as a principled act of taking personal responsibility, but also because if enough people do it, it can affect companies' choices. The challenge with this strategy, though, is that generally the companies don't know why you are or aren't buying something.
- Investing in mutual funds that push for the things I care about. My retirement money is in socially responsible mutual funds, ones which push companies they hold stock in to act in more socially and environmentally responsible ways. So my retirement savings give those funds more weight to bring their shareholders' values to the table in discussions with companies, and more votes when shareholder resolutions on corporate social responsibility (CSR) come up. Traditional mutual funds are usually pretty bad about CSR resolutions, as you can see here-- many of them pratically never support them (Vanguard voted yes on 5% of CSR resolutions in 2007, Fidelity only 2%) and even those with the best records (like TIAA-CREF which voted yes on 40%, Schwab at 36%, or Goldman Sachs at 24%) are still pretty poor. [See
- Actually directly telling them what I care about! One of the neat things about the ClimateCounts.org website is that on the profile pages for each of the 56 companies, there's a link at the bottom that says "Click here to tell this company you think Climate Counts!" It gives you a form to e-mail the company to tell them that you read the information about their record on climate change, and that you consider yourself a climate-conscious consumer. There are other organized campaigns, like Co-op America's actions (tell car companies to improve fuel effiency! thank magazines for using recycled paper! and more!) Or you can just look up the right e-mail address and tell companies your thoughts all on your own (when it's a local business, it's even easier and more personal.)