[iPhone] Buycott helps you spend money on products from socially responsible companies

mzl.fnssuapz.320x480-75One of the most interesting books I read last year was “The New Rules of Green Marketing” by Jacquelyn Ottman. As a kid who grew up watching “Captain Planet” and had one parent working in the environmental/wildlife sector, I’ve always been a bit “green.” What I really enjoyed about this book was the revelation that people don’t just care about the environment because its important to take care of the planet, but because having a “green” attitude is part of their identity and the way they present themselves to the world. If you’re the kind of person who boasts about being environmentally-friendly and socially conscious, it may be time for you to “put your money where your mouth is” with Buycott.

What is it and what does it do

Main Functionality

Buycott helps ordinary people to use their purchasing power for good. Buycott lets users scan an item and get a better picture about the corporation that produced it, and determine whether the company that produced the item shares the same values and ethics as you do.

Pros

  • Offers a really helpful “tree” that can help you decipher whether that “little organic company” you love so much really is earth-friendly, or just a small arm of a megacorporation
  • Scans all major retail barcodes (UPC-A, UPC-E, EAN8, EAN13, etc)
  • Great design and UI
  • Easily send feedback to corporations and manufacturers that you purchase goods from: thank them for their socially-conscious decisions in the past, or try and convince a less-than-perfect company to change their policies
  • Log in fast with Facebook or create a new account
  • “Trending campaigns” acts as a newsfeed, telling you what causes are gaining traction and media attention now
  • App features campaigns that align with both liberal and conservative values

Cons

  • Getting personalized feedback about how a company’s ethics mesh with your own is dependent on being involved in one or more campaigns: this makes the app less of a reference and more of a reference-cum-social activist tool, which might not appeal to all users.
  • It would be nice to have some aspects of the app available to check out before you have to sign in
  • Despite a large number of members, the number of campaigns seems quite small

Discussion

mzl.iyzcjwka.320x480-75Buycott basically functions through three main steps. First, you align your profile with a campaign, such as “Say No to Monsanto” or “Avoid Koch Industries” or “Support Koch Industries” or “Save the Pigs – Boycott Products from States with Ag-Gag Laws.” Next, scan a product that you want to buy. Finally, review Buycott’s report on that product/company, which will let you know if the company is in step with your personal beliefs and convictions.

One thing that is nice is the ability for users to create their own campaign. You do need to do this from the Buycott website, however: it would be nice to be able to do this from within the app. Hopefully that functionality will be added in the next update.

Overall, there actually seems to be a balanced community here. There are both liberal and conservative voices, though there are probably more liberal campaigns overall. It’s nice to see an app where the community isn’t so homogenous.

The only downside to this app is that you need to be very comprehensive in your choices and affiliations with various campaigns. After all, the app can’t tell you if you’re buying a product made by a “no-no” company if it doesn’t have the data to do so. It would be nice if you could scan any item, and get a quick rundown of any major corporate donations or sponsorships or recent news stories about the company’s ethics…regardless of your campaign settings.

Conclusion and download link

If you want to prove your dedication to supporting socially and environmentally-responsible companies, Buycott is probably the best app of its kind out there. It’s a solid resource for anyone who wants to spend their money responsibly, despite a few minor annoyances.

Price: Free

Version reviewed: 1.02

Supported OS: Requires iOS 5.1 or later

Download size: 3.5 MB

Buycott on Apple App Store

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2 comments

  1. JMJ

    I second weylin’s comment, mostly, and add that the app should also help identify those super-rich, international companies that avoid paying their fair share of taxes everywhere they do business as well as the countryies of their organization. Apple is the poster child for corporate greed, arrogance and social irresponsibility. Ironic platform for such an app.