(StatePoint) How do you shop? When faced with aisles of cleaners that all claim to do the same thing, electronics that play the same content or cars that all get you where you need to go, most people choose products based on quality and price.
But a new trend is developing as more consumers are taking into account a company's charitable contributions or standing in the community.
Now more than ever, shoppers want to buy products from good corporate citizens. Especially in light of recent worldwide crises, many companies are providing assistance quickly -- and consumers are taking note. For example, Wal-Mart financially supported Red Cross emergency relief efforts in Haiti after the earthquake and sent pre-packaged food kits, helping to raise its standing in the eyes of many.
But corporate social responsibility isn't limited to international disasters. Many organizations contribute to their local communities daily, supporting such efforts as education, environmental sustainability, disease prevention, animal care and rescue, and safety programs.
If educational causes are important to you, for example, look for products from companies such as Honeywell or Toyota, that have long sponsored programs to assist teachers and students. By providing science education grants to teachers and scholarships to minority and disadvantaged students, Toyota is among many corporations helping enhance community schools, while Honeywell supports classroom safety programs.
Here are some other tips for becoming a more conscientious shopper:
* Do Your Research: There are several publications that report on companies' corporate social responsibility, but you can also go straight to the source and check the Web sites for your most frequently bought purchases. Search "environment" or "corporate social responsibility" to learn what companies are doing to make the world a better place.
* Switch Teams: If a company doesn't give to any charities or causes, or you don't like the ones to which they give, switch products and start buying from a company whose charitable work you support.
* Start with the Cause: Instead of researching companies, you can research causes and organizations to learn which companies are supporting them. You can usually find this information on a nonprofit's Web site or in its annual report. For instance, by visiting the National Safety Council's Web site, you can find lists of corporate partners and the initiatives they co-sponsor, such as free teen driving programs.
* Participate: Take part in corporate-sponsored events. For example, National Public Lands Day is the largest hands-on volunteer effort to improve and enhance U.S. public lands, and has been made possible by a 10-year sponsorship from Toyota. In 2009, 150,000 volunteers built trails and bridges, removed trash and invasive plants, planted trees and restored water resources. If you're interested in attending this year's event, visit publiclandsday.org.
Remember, actions speak louder than words. Buying products benefiting causes and charities close to your heart is more powerful than talking. With every purchase, you can change your community or even the world!
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