It just became a lot easier to "vote with your wallet" after the recent launch of Ethiq, a nationwide platform that tells consumers what companies support their own beliefs and values.
The platform, which launched in May, was created by Darren Bates, a former public school teacher in Los Angeles, who said it's about time consumers know where their money is going. Users create an account and respond to several statements on a scale ranging from "strongly agree" to "strongly oppose" and responses provide them with companies that are either supportive or not supportive of that position based on the company's campaign contributions.
The desktop version of Ethiq has garnered roughly 1,500 users across all 50 states. Statements cover current events in domestic and international politics, bills and ballot measures, corporate altruism and more.
"Intuitively, I think most of us realize that our purchasing decisions have profound consequences downstream," Bates says. "The goal is to empower citizens to make informed consumer purchasing and voting decisions with unbiased, personalized and actionable information."
Users are matched with about 60 major companies nationwide in four distinct categories: gas stations, grocery stores, department stores and fast food.
Bates said he chose these four categories because it's relatively easy for people to switch sides when it comes to choosing where they fill up for gas as opposed to bigger purchases, like switching from an Android phone to an iPhone. For someone in Chattanooga, the platform might recommend shopping at Aldi instead of Publix or vice versa based on responses to certain statements and the ZIP code entered at the time of registration.
For example, by strongly agreeing to what Ethiq declares a Democrat-leaning statement such as "Business corporations make too much profit," a user would be matched with Dunkin' Donuts. The company has given 51 percent of its total contributions to Democratic parties and committees, according to Ethiq.
A majority of the data is provided by the Federal Election Commission and the National Institute on Money in Politics, which analyzes and sorts FEC data. Bates said Ethiq is the only platform in this space with explicit permission from the federal government to use data for this purpose.
Bates said he has received a lot of positive feedback in the past few months of the platform's beta version — with many users stating they would like a mobile app version next. He said people have also requested more categories, like airlines and car rentals.
"The goal of the beta is to get feedback from the general public and also to show a few investors that the public really cares about such a platform," Bates said.
If he can get enough traction nationwide, then Bates said he would hope to release an app before the November mid-term elections.
"My overall goal is transparency, and transparency isn't a partisan issue," he says. "A vast majority of people in this country want transparency."