If asked the question, “would you want the companies you buy from to uphold the same social and environmental values you do?” most likely, one would say ‘yes.’ But do we even know what their values are, or if they are taking action to address these issues. Do they care about social and environmental issues at all?
Tracy Wyman of Sleepy Hollow, New York had these same questions. She wanted to know what was behind the products she is buying, the policies behind the marketing charade, like whether the company treats its employees respectfully, promotes diversity or honors the environment.
Fortunately, Wyman has an answer to our consumer woes: her social impact startup “Boldly.”
Launched in late November of 2019, Boldly works to empower people to influence companies’ policies for the good.
Living in impoverished countries working as a non-profit consultant, Wyman was primed for caring about social and environmental issues, and also for believing that businesses should prioritize purpose.
But it was the 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. that truly inspired Wyman to create Boldly.
The 2017 Women’s March left Wyman mesmerized by the power of collective voices. It was during the plane ride home from the march that the idea for Boldly was born.
Wyman believed that most people want companies they support to address social and environmental issues. She wanted an easy way to find out about company policies and to tell companies when they should be stepping up.
Collaborating with Andres Moreno, a former colleague, and Juan Gutierrez, Wyman created a Chrome extension that gives online shoppers personalized company ratings, alternative companies that better match one’s values and pre-written social media posts to tell companies what one expects.
Taking advantage of the fact that most shopping is done online now, the chrome extension is there right when you shop, making it easier and more accessible than a website or an app.
After the Chrome extension is downloaded, the user is asked to make a profile. The user is given a list of causes, including climate change, gender and ethnic diversity, pay equity, LGBTQ+ equality and animal rights, and asked to choose the causes that matter the most to the user. The extension then rates the company based on the prioritized values on the user’s profile.
The extension also offers a “compare” tab where it gives the user four alternative companies that have a better rating. Lastly, there is the “act” tab, which gives the user prewritten Twitter and Facebook posts to send to the company. The posts can either be applauding a company for its initiatives or criticizing the company to do better.
The extension is able to rate companies mainly through CSRHub, a Seattle-based company that serves financial advisers looking for ethical investments. Over the course of 10 years, CSRHub has accumulated 80,000 companies in its database. The data is then aggregated into ratings.
Boldly also uses data from nonprofits like Leaping Bunny, which rates companies on animal cruelty, and Human Rights Watch, which records companies’ LGBTQ+ policies.
“We want to see big companies take bold action on ethics, equity and the environment, and will push them to do so through coordinated, scaled consumer- and employee-activism,” Wyman said.
Boldly aims to take the focus off the individual and onto the institutional, to hold the powerful accountable and foster change on a macro level. Because there has been rollback upon rollback on industry regulation, Wyman hopes that consumer pressure can stand in the place of regulation.
“A lot of big companies take advantage of their workers and don’t seem very ambitious about reducing their climate impacts, and I just thought maybe with many voices we could get them to change,” Wyman said. “Boycotting doesn’t work unless everyone does it at once, but 10,000 tweets will get their attention, and that seemed achievable.”
Boldly is about the push for transparency.
“If a company is not being transparent about a particular policy, it’s not good news,” Wyman said.
Right now, the Chrome extension only contains fashion and personal care product companies, but Wyman has plans to expand the use of Boldly to job hunters.
With a small adjustment, people looking for a job can use Boldly to check the ratings of a company’s social and environmental values. Wyman hopes that this technology could eventually be used at campus career offices.
On the flip side, Wyman is toying with the idea of packaging Boldly to companies seeking employers. This will supply data to employers about what employees value and care about.
“If you want these candidates, you have to step up on these issues,” Wyman said.
Since the plug-in’s launch, there are 130 people using Boldly.
“It’s important for consumers to have a critical eye, to be mindful of “purpose washing” and “green washing” and to really ask themselves what is behind the marketing.
To embrace consumer empowerment, and to help influence social and environmental policies, visit https://myboldly.com.