Holiday Shopping For the Greater Good: Supporting Humanistic Retail Companies

By Brian Magee

For people looking to make holiday shopping decisions that include support for political, religious or social causes, it’s not as hard to do as you might think.

Credo Mobile, for example, has been getting attention for giving money toward humanitarian aid and marriage equality. “Our members and activist friends help us pick the groups each year and vote on how to distribute the donations among them,” the company’s website declares.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One! is a company that sells organic, fair trade soaps, lotions and cleaning products. Their website states: “In total over the last five years, Dr. Bronner’s spending on social and environmental causes and charities has roughly matched our total after-tax income, and we intend to keep doing so as circumstances allow.”

Northern Sun is an online retailer that sells progressive-themed products, and they write that they support “local community radio, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Women Against Military Madness, the Resource Center of the Americas  and others.”

Also, don’t forget, a company that sells all kinds of merchandise for atheists, agnostics, humanists, and freethinkers. Owners Rebecca Hale (AHA’s Vice President) and Gary Betchan are longtime supporters and leaders of the freethought movement. Ten percent of the sales completed through a special EvolveFish page goes to the American Humanist Association.

Ben & Jerry’s is a company that has a long-standing reputation for supporting a “progressive, nonpartisan social mission that seeks to meet human needs and eliminate injustices in our local, national and international communities by integrating these concerns into our day-to-day business activities. Our focus is on children and families, the environment and sustainable agriculture on family farms.” And who doesn’t love their Cherry Garcia?

It would be an odd gift, but if you want to pay for web hosting, you could consider ThinkHost. “It’s always been an important part of our company operations to actively support non-profit organizations and progressive companies in a multitude of areas: technology, humanitarian and environmental to name a few,” their website states. “We currently offer free and discounted hosting to non-profit community groups and progressive companies, plus other related services and options for fundraising.”

There are choices for people looking to search existing databases of companies that have taken all kinds of progressive stands. The National Green Pages is “a directory featuring 3,000 businesses that have made firm commitments to sustainable, socially just principles, including the support of sweatshop-free labor, organic farms, fair trade, and cruelty-free products,” and The Human Rights Campaign Buyer’s Guide, says, “We hope to harness that power by providing you with the most accurate review of a business’s workplace policies toward LGBT employees.”

For those who want to get a bit more serious, you might want to plan where you will stop for lunch during a long day of shopping because there are the restaurant boycotts to consider. Denny’s, Applebees, Papa Johns, Dominos, Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Chick-fil-A are among the high profile targets that oppose marriage equality and other religiously conservative causes. But be sure to do a Google search before you leave because the situation is fluid and there are local boycotts to consider.

There are also direct calls to either patronize or boycott specific merchants. The Liberty Council is continuing their annual campaign to direct gift buyers on their purchases with their Naughty and Nice List. A company’s place on the list is determined by the level of Christmas terminology and symbols they can find. “The Naughty & Nice list is composed of companies that profit off of Christmas while pretending it does not exist (Naughty) and companies that acknowledge Christmas (Nice),” the website states.

There are also people who have attempted to warn you about fakers when it comes to luring you in with rhetoric and what companies pay for what kind of political ads and other political activities. There’s also the boycott list maintained at the Ethical Consumer website to consult. (Of course, you can use these lists to help you decide where to shop instead of places to avoid if you are of the opposing political persuasion.)

JCPenny has been declared off-limits to those who don’t support equal rights for the LGBT population because of their ads that feature Ellen DeGeneres.If you thought of giving the gift of Oreo cookies but don’t support gay rights, you could have a problem.

So maybe shopping with a conscious isn’t so easy after all! Please share your preferences in the comment section below, including if you shop with or without a cause.

Brian Magee is the communications associate for the American Humanist Association.