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How Blue (or Red) Is Your Green?

Your credit card statement can also be a political statement.

That’s what social entrepreneur Mark Hanis ’04 hopes to prove through Progressive Shopper, a web extension that reveals the political tendencies of online retailers. Using donation data culled from more than 500 companies, the left-leaning startup provides buyers with real-time brand ratings, from “Highly Recommended” to “Please Shop Elsewhere.”

Dismayed by 2016’s election results, Hanis and co-founder Van Chappell began searching for ways to turn their frustration into activism. “We realized,” Hanis says, “that most people shop much more often than they vote, donate, or advocate, and that our most powerful action could be to find ways to change consumer behavior.”

The pair leveraged public records, available through the Federal Election Commission, on corporations’ contributions during the 2016 and 2018 election cycles. Once Progressive Shopper is installed in a browser, it pops up with that data when a web user visits an online store. Apple, for example, gets high marks from the plugin, with 95 percent of its political contributions going to Democrats. At just 59 percent, however, Amazon gets a middling review, with a note that “Better Options Are Available.”

“Consumers are no longer comfortable or happy to buy what marketers put in front of them—they want to consciously choose brands and companies that fit with their values,” says Hanis, who’s also a research fellow with Stanford’s Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice. “We set out to make the process easier, to give consumers credible information that’s easy to understand, right at the point of purchase.”