Starbucks and Microsoft stand out while Popeyes fares badly according to an app from a former Elizabeth Warren and Al Gore staffer
It just got easier to shop your conscience.
Financial firm Aspiration is launching a new feature in its mobile app that allows consumers to see how socially conscious their retail habits are. The Aspiration Impact Management index ranks retailers according to criteria ranging from LGBT-friendliness to supply chain integrity. Customers also get a monthly score based off where they shop. They can check how well their usual retailers fare and are recommended better alternatives if they exist. For now, only those with Aspiration debit cards—there are 85,000 holders and they’re adding 10,000 a month—have access to this index.
While the feature has been in development before protest movements like #GrabYourWallet, it’s inspired by the same ethos. Companies seen as progressive “are more desired than ever before by young people,” says Aspiration chief executive and co-founder Andrei Cherny. “More than with previous generations, people are looking for values and value.”
By Aspiration’s count, Microsoft is the most socially conscious company, while Google parent Alphabet and insurer Allstate are close behind. Oil and gas firm Phillips 66 is the least socially conscious. Whole Foods is the best grocer and Starbucks the highest-ranked eatery—though employees recently have been grousing about unicorn-colored frappuccinos—while fried chicken purveyor Popeyes is the lowest. According to the Aspiration, the likes of Microsoft are very transparent about how they treat employees and the community, while policies for others are more murky. There are some limitations: the index measures 5,000 companies meaning your corner shop and other small businesses are likely to be excluded.
Cherny knows a thing or two about melding politics and business. The 41-year-old started working as a speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore right out of college, helped Elizabeth Warren create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and prosecuted consumer fraud as Arizona’s Assistant Attorney General. One of the most important lessons he took from politics, he says, is attention to detail. Cherny recalls being chewed out by Gore as a 21-year-old for misspelling “there” as “their” in a speech, though the two words sound orally similar. “You have to have standards,” he says.
While he’s a member of the liberal elite, he has no patience for the argument that only the privileged care about social movements: 94% of his app’s users live outside New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area. “There’s a consensus among younger consumers on certain issues regardless of their personal politics,” says Cherny, whose three-year-old firm donates 10% of revenue to charity.
“A healthy percentage of customers are really interested in exerting their influence,” says consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, adding that Aspiration’s index will matter most for shoppers of discretionary products like apparel. She also thinks the monthly rating will be a hit with customers. “People have a terrific fascination with anything that lets them learn more about themselves.”
Though his Democratic party has been assailed for being too close to Wall Street, Cherny doesn’t think being a “good capitalist” is an oxymoron. “If you care about inequality, you have to have a financial firm that is focused on addressing these issues and that people trust,” says Cherny, who founded Aspiration after seeing military spouses and the elderly preyed on while he was a prosecutor. “People see that large institutions haven’t had their best interests at heart.”
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