Why I switched to CVS

I recently switched pharmacies. I decided to cast my lot with CVS – despite my upbringing. You see, my grandmom, Mimi, was a Walgreens shopper from way back. I have many fond memories of going there as child. “Need to stop at Walgreens” often meant, “Clayton’s going to get to buy a surprise.”

the Rev. Clayton Childers

So whenever I had a choice, I would choose Walgreens. But then CVS did something amazing. CVS stopped selling cigarettes! The company claimed that out of a commitment to the health of its customers, CVS felt it no longer made sense to sell products that hurt people’s health . So out go the cigarettes.

This impressed me. CVS was making a lot of money on cigarettes. Reports estimated its cigarette profits were potentially $2 billion for the current year. That’s right, $2 billion!

Sacrificed profits

CVS was making a conscious decision to sacrifice significant profits to take a stand for the social good. So I decided to switch.

Ikea decided to preemptively raise its minimum wage to $10.76 an hour.

Another company that impressed me recently was Ikea, the furniture folks. Ikea decided to preemptively raise its minimum wage to $10.76 an hour. It is a lot closer to a living wage, and way better than what many other workers make.

"By taking better care of our coworkers," said Rob Olson, acting president of Ikea U.S., "they will take better care of our customers, who will take better care of Ikea. We see it as a win-win-win opportunity."

Hearing that makes me want to just go out and buy some Ikea furniture. Which I am sure is just what Ikea loves to hear.

Social Principles on Corporate Responsibility

Our denomination's Social Principles address this very issue. ¶163.I in the Book of Discipline states that corporations are responsible not only to their stockholders, but also to other stakeholders; their workers, suppliers, vendors, customers, the communities in which they do business and for the earth, which supports them.

"We support the public’s right to know what impact corporations have in these various arenas, so that people can make informed choices about which corporations to support," says the Social Principle on Corporate Responsibility.

In the grand scheme of things, these small choices are good illustrations of the consumer calculus that might run through our heads as we make any number of decisions. I know years ago a dear friend swore off Exxon: remember the Exxon Valdez? She still shies away from its service stations. Now BP is on her hit list.

Her choices have influenced my gas-buying decisions as well. The last four years, I have chosen to do something similar with my diet: avoiding red meat, rarely eating chicken, though I do still eat fish along with lots of fruits and veggies.

There is a long list of reasons for this. Whenever I have a choice, I am careful to buy “fair-trade” coffee. I have even been one to ask store managers why they don’t offer it. I think of it as one small way I can side with the workers and vote with my wallet.

I also prefer local businesses, local produce, though I have to say I still love pineapples — the most amazing fruit ever created.

Consumer calculus

It is all part of the consumer calculus that runs through our heads. I know there are many other ways I succumb to the marketplace with hardly a second thought. I feel sure I will hear from some who will be glad to tell me: “Yes, but … .”

The thing is, it is our personal choice. We may not be able to do it all, but we can do something. It is still one small way of casting a conscious, intentional consumer vote: choosing the good, avoiding the hurtful. If companies want to earn our dollars, they should commit themselves to a higher level of living and to the greater good of all.

In doing so, they give us a reason to say yes to them and no to others.

Editor's note: The Rev. Dr. Clayton Childers is director of Annual Conference Relations at the General Board of Church & Society. He also directs advocacy for Imagine No Malaria, The United Methodist Church’s initiative to eradicate malaria.

Letter to the Editor