Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet

ResponsibleShopper.org Rates More Than 150 Top Consumer Companies, Exposes Big-Brand Abuses and Enlists Consumers in Cleaning Up Corporations

Expanded Web Site for Concerned Consumers “Connects the Dots” Between America’s Biggest Companies, Their Abuses and How to Create Real Corporate Responsibility.

July 30, 2008

Washington, DC -- Worried that your consumer dollars are rewarding bad corporations with problem practices?  Concerned about greenwashing?  Wish there was an easy way to get the dirt on America’s biggest companies before you buy something?  Looking for a way to pressure consumer companies you patronize to get responsible and clean up their acts?  For concerned consumers, the answer to those questions is the newly expanded ResponsibleShopper.org Web site (http://www.Responsibleshopper.org) operated by Co-op America. The expanded Responsible Shopper site relaunched at 1:30 p.m. EDT today (July 30, 2008).

ResponsibleShopper.org informs concerned consumers about problem corporate practices, action campaigns and ways to live greener in relation to more than 150 major consumer companies. In a major enhancement of the Web site, ResponsibleShopper.org now ranks companies in 27 industry categories from best to worst based on research focusing on such key issues as human rights, social justice, environmental sustainability and more.  

In addition, to attention getting companies like WalMart and Exxon, major consumer companies ranked by the new ResponsibleShopper.org site include such brand-name corporations as McDonalds, Toyota, Coca Cola, Disney, Hanes, and General Electric.   Companies are listed and ranked on ResponsibleShopper.org in the following categories:  agribusiness; appliances; athletic wear; automobile; banking/financial; beauty and body care; beverage/water; big box retailer; booksellers; chemicals; cleaning products; clothing; coffee; computer/electronics; department stores; electric utilities; electronics; fast food; food; gas/oil; home improvement/building; Internet; mass media (TV, radio, film); supermarkets; tires; tobacco; and toys/games.

Co-op America Responsible Shopper Coordinator Victoria Kreha, said:  “This is a major step forward for empowering concerned consumers who want plain facts and action-oriented solutions, not hyped-up advertising and glitzy greenwashing.   Visitors to the revamped ResponsibleShopper.org site will be given considerably more information about how to use their economic clout to demand greater corporate responsibility and tips on how they can shift their spending to more responsible choices."

Co-op America Corporate Responsibility Programs Director Todd Larsen, said:  “The Number 1 goal in expanding Co-op America’s ResponsibleShopper.org was to create the Web’s most powerful one-stop information resource for concerned consumers. The result is that ResponsibleShopper.org now provides you with the real story about abuses by well-known companies, gives you actions to promote corporate responsibility, and helps you green your life and world.”

The site is divided up into three sections by company and industry:  “Learn” (get information); “Act” (join in campaigns to clean up corporate abuses); and “Live”/Go Green (shift spending to greener/fair-trade practices and companies).

Each company-specific profile in ResponsibleShopper.org contains a listing for consumer, investor, and community campaigns to end corporate abuse of workers, communities and the environment. The complete list of actions (sorted by industry and company) is available at: /programs/responsibleshopper/act_hub.cfm.

Examples of ResponsibleShopper.org corporate profiles include the following:

  • McDonald’s: It is well-known that McDonald’s food is unhealthy but there are many other problems associated with the fast food giant.  A Chinese group found that McDonald’s violated Chinese labor laws by paying their part-time workers almost half of what the government mandated minimum wage is. In other Chinese factories workers have protested long work hours, denial of paid leave and overtime pay, and failure to provide adequate medical insurance.  McDonald’s scored only a 22 out of 100 in a Climate Counts Scorecard which rates companies on their commitment to reversing climate change. McDonald’s was part of a lawsuit against fast food companies by the state of California for not warning customers that their french fries contain a carcinogenic chemical.
  • Toyota:  This automaker enjoys a reputation as the greenest company in an industry that has had a huge impact on the environment. But Toyota is not as green as it would like you to think. A recent report by the National Labor Committee linked Toyota to human trafficking and sweatshop labor as well as finding ties to the brutal military regime in Burma. One-third of the more than 10,000 workers toiling in factories to produce the popular and fastest selling hybrid in the world, the Prius, are part-time temps who earn less than 60 percent of what full-time workers earn and few, if any, benefits. Additionally, Toyota has lobbied against heightened fuel efficiency standards and was sued by the EPA for Clean Air Act violations.
  • Coca-Cola:   Coke’s food and beverages are enjoyed by millions of people around the world. But the beverage giant has had adverse effects on millions more. In India, Coke was found to have pumped hazardous waste into farms fields and a local canal that flows into the Ganges. A study by an Indian organization found high levels of pesticides in all of the Coke products that it tested, 27 times higher than what is allowed under Indian regulations. Elsewhere, Coke has been accused of human rights violations in several countries, discrimination against women and minorities in its US bottling plants, union busting, and underwent an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for allegedly committing $2 billion in accounting fraud.
  • Disney:  Through its theme parks, movies and merchandise, Disney prides itself on being able to create a magical, fairytale world for children. But human rights violations in China, lead in children’s toys, and packaging advertising to look like news (Disney owns the ABC television network), make this conglomerate more of an ogre than a fairy godmother. A Hong-Kong based nongovernmental organization found at least nine sweatshops in China producing items for Disney. In one such factory, workers went on strike after not having been paid for 45 days. They were also protesting unsafe working conditions and long hours. In June of this year, a US-based advocacy group found unsafe concentrations of lead in children’s charm bracelets produced by Disney. These bracelets had coatings containing between three and seven times the amount of lead allowed by the federal government.
  • Hanes:  This company was part of Sara Lee until 2006, but its labor practices are anything but sweet. Hanes owns a factory in the Dominican Republic that has been accused of serious workers’ rights violations including firing workers who unionized, verbal harassment, and unpaid overtime. The National Labor Committee (NLC) discovered child labor at the Harvest Rich factory in Bangladesh, which contracted to Hanes. The NLC found reports of children being beaten and forced to work such long hours that they often collapsed from exhaustion. Hanes claimed their own investigations turned up no evidence of child labor, but they also admitted that their factory monitoring efforts have failed for many years. 
  • General Electric (GE):  Although GE has its “Ecomagination” marketing campaign to paint GE as a company that cares about the environment, the facts tell a different story. The Political Economy Research institute out of the University of Massachusetts rated GE the 4th worst polluter in the country for 2006. GE has been linked to 116 Superfund sites, sites deemed so toxic by the EPA that they are hazardous to human health, and the company dumped 1.3 million pounds of the toxic chemicals, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBS), into the Hudson River. GE has numerous transgressions in a variety of other areas. Between 2001 and 2003, GE not only paid zero taxes but received $9.5 million in tax breaks. During that two year period, GE reported nearly $37 billion in profit.  GE also received $2.2 billion worth of military contracts in 2005, according to CorpWatch’s War Profiteers Campaign.

ABOUT CO-OP AMERICA
Co-op America (http://www.greenamerica.org) is the leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Co-op America provides the economic strategies, organizing power and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today's social and environmental problems. Co-op America’s green economy programs encourage corporate responsibility, tackle climate change, build fair trading systems, advance healthy, local communities, and provide green purchasing and investing information for families and businesses. To receive Co-op America’s popular publications, including Real Money and the National Green Pages, participate in Co-op America’s Green Business Conferences or Green Festivals, or to get its free e-newsletter, providing the latest green news, green discounts and opportunities to take action for a green economy, visit www.greenamerica.org, email info@greenamerica.org, or call at 800-58-GREEN.

CONTACT: Ailis Aaron Wolf, (703) 276-3265 or aawolf@hastingsgroup.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  A streaming audio replay of the news event will be available on the Web at http://www.responsibleshopper.org as of 6 p.m. EDT on July 30, 2008. 

MEDIA INQUIRIES

Please contact Todd Larsen by email
or by phone at 202-872-5307.