Before the Internet, when someone wanted to know something about a certain product, he/she could only get the information from the box, packaging or label. This meant that many times the buyer – without knowing it – was contributing money to companies that polluted or did not respect some rights, such as human rights.
‘Buycott’ is one of the most prominent practices used to promote economic activism through consumption. Its name is a mixture of the English words buy and boycott, and it is carried out acquiring a specific product or buying in a specific establishment so as to reward the company economically for their internal policies related to social or environmental issues.
For example, if a store sells non-polluting utensils, self-described ‘buycotters’ who sympathize with that philosophy, agree – usually through online forums – to buy there en masse. One of the pioneering organizations in sponsoring this form of boosting consumerism based on rewards is Carrotmob. This initiative took its first steps in March 2008 when hundreds of customers convened by the organization flooded the aisles of San Francisco’s K & D Market store leaving it almost out of stock with $ 9,200 profits. The reason for such a citizen mobilization was that its owners had committed in advance to invest 22% of their profits in implementing policies respectful of the environment.
Since then, Carrotmob – whose motto is: vote with your money – has organized this type of mass dwindling to consume selectively around the world, getting both activists and private entrepreneurs to benefit from so-called ethical consumerism.
In 2012, the smartphone app Buycott was released, which allows its users to scan the barcodes of more than 20 million products from around the world to know what practices the company that markets them carries out. Principles such as animal welfare, civil rights, criminal justice, education, the environment, human rights, human trafficking, workers’ or women’s rights, and respect for the LGBTQ community are taken into account. By scanning the product, the user may decide not to buy a particular consumer good if he/she is not in accordance with the policies of the company that manufactures it.