With the (yuk) holiday shopping season upon us, this weekend seems like a good time to devote a series of blogposts to the idea of shopping with your values. But before I get to today’s topic–the Buying for Equality guide published by the Human Rights Campaign–let me first humbly suggest that one way to express your values this season, if you care about leaving a more sustainable planet to our children, is not to shop at all, or to shop less.
Over-consumption is a problem. If all of the 6.8 billion people on the planet lived like Americans we’d be in trouble. Today, Black Friday, the busiest day of the year is also known as Buy Nothing Day. This year the organizers are saying:
We want you to not only stop buying for 24 hours, but to shut off your lights, televisions and other nonessential appliances. We want you to park your car, turn off your phones and log off of your computer for the day.
This is a nonstarter for me. I’m not parking my car, turning off my phone or shutting down my laptop (obviously). No way, no how. Indeed, I worry that a call to action like that turns off more people than it inspires. I much prefer the holiday messaging from the Center for a New American Dream, which exhorts people to simplify the holidays, by planning a holiday with more fun and less stuff. But most of us still want at least some stuff. Today, and over the next couple of days, I’ll try to suggest some ways we can acquire stuff that aligns with our values.
The Human Rights Campaign, which is America’s largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organization, released a guide, just in time for the shopping season, to hundreds of popular brands that are rated on how companies treat their LGBT workers:
“Buying for Equality 2010” divides businesses and their consumer products into red, yellow and green categories based on their score on the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, a nationally recognized benchmark of LGBT inclusion. The guide is available for download and viewing online here.
So if you believe in gay rights, as I do, and you want to buy your son or daughter a new computer, consider going with Apple or Dell, which get a 100% ratings, rather than Acer/Gateway, which gets 50%.
Or if you are in the market for a winter sweater, patronize Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nordstrom, REI or Target, all of which get a perfect 100%. By contrast, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Ann Taylor and Neiman Marcus didn’t respond to HRC’s surveys, despite repeated requests, so there’s no way to know where they stand.
The “Buying for Equality” guide is handy for everyday purchases as well. General Mills gets a 100% score so you can feel good when eating Cheerios, Wheaties, Haagen Daz or Yoplait (though not all at once, I hope). Lagging behind are the folks at Kellogg’s, which gets a 65% score, which means that neither Rice Krispies nor Pop Tarts make for an LGBT-friendly breakfast.
Filling up your car? BP, Chevron and Shell (100%) trounce Exxon-Mobil, with a zero.
Does guides like this make a difference? Hard to say. But HRC’s guide has been downloaded from the website more than 300,000 times and the group says it will come out with an application for the iPhone soon. Historically, the LGBT community has tended to support businesses that support its causes. In these challenging economic times, what business can afford to alienate even a sliver of its customer base?
Tomorrow, in the next in a series of blogposts on holiday shopping, a look at a startup with the motto: Change starts with your underwear.