If you think the little guy can’t make a difference, you may want to think again. The past year proved numerous times that regular people can bring about major changes, just by gathering signatures.
Change.org, the world’s largest petition platform, says that its users started 300,000 petitions in 2012, and several of those have led to significant changes within organizations. The website says the biggest of those changes took place at the following companies:
- Corporations stop funding anti-gay discrimination- When the Boy Scouts came under heavy scrutiny this year for their controversial exclusionary policy against gay scouts and leaders, their biggest corporate funders – AT&T, Ernst & Young, Intel, UPS and Verizon – had a choice: keep funding the Boy Scouts and face consumer backlash, or pull their funding entirely. At first, each corporation chose to continue funding the Scouts, only to face petition after petition signed by thousands of angry customers demanding they stop. At this point, all but Verizon have ceased donating to the Boy Scouts. And if history’s any indication, Verizon will buckle under the pressure, too.
- Teen magazines stop Photoshopping models- It’s common knowledge that teen magazines Photoshop their models to unattainable levels of perfection. So when 14-year-old Julia Bluhm petitioned Seventeen to stop doctoring photos of its models, many said it couldn’t be done. But Julia didn’t give up, collecting tens of thousands of signatures on her Change.org petition and delivering them at a mock photoshoot outside of Seventeen’s headquarters, where she met with the magazine’s editor-in-chief. This July, Seventeen announced it would no longer Photoshop its models, making it the first mainstream teen magazine to take the “no Photoshop” pledge. (Soon after, Cleo Magazine in Australia, facing its own Change.org petition, followed Seventeen’s lead.)
- Rental car industry stops fighting vehicle safety- Callie Houck’s two daughters died in a car crash in 2004. The reason? Enterprise had given them a rental car that was under recall for safety defects. Due to a federal loophole, what Enterprise did wasn’t illegal. And for the past 8 years, the company continued handing out recalled cars to customers and blocking legislation intended to stop the practice. Then, early this year, Callie launched a Change.org petition asking Enterprise to stop blocking the legislation. After months of resisting, Enterprise finally agreed to call off its opposition in October, marking a major shift in the rental car industry.
- Beef industry ditches pink slime– For years, so-called “pink slime,” officially known as “lean finely textured beef,” has been used to bulk up U.S. beef products under the radar. But no longer. When Texas mom Bettina Siegel started her Change.org petition asking the USDA to stop using pink slime in school food, she didn’t even expect to get a thousand signatures. Nine days and 258,874 signatures later, the USDA agreed to offer schools a pink slime-free option, a decision with lasting ramifications for the beef industry. In particular, Beef Products, Inc., the leading U.S. producer of pink slime, claimed the media furor around Bettina’s petition caused it to close three of its four plants and lay off 650 people.
- Cell phone companies take on domestic violence- When Cynthia Butterworth’s sister escaped from her abusive husband, she needed to cancel their shared cell phone contract so he couldn’t track her phone calls. But when she called Verizon, they said it would cost $500 to end her contract – money she simply didn’t have. Finally, after a massive Change.org petition, Cynthia got Verizon to change its policies so domestic abuse victims like Cynthia’s sister could easily cancel their contracts. Then word spread, and another domestic abuse victim, “Jane Doe,” launched her own Change.org petition, asking Sprint to follow suit. And just last month, Sprint agreed to waive its $200 cancellation fee in cases of domestic violence victims.