Aptly Titled: Time and Again, Change.org Proves a Potent Force in Nudging Brands


Nicer bras for masectomy survivors. Healthier ingredients in soft drinks. Halting gender stereotypes in toys.

All are among the causes and quests that have gained momentum — and in many cases, acquired success — through Change.org, which has quickly become a major force to be reckoned with among brands. While activist organizations such as Greenpeace lobby companies and others around a particular set of issues, Change.org is an open platform to agitate for action.

PepsiCo, for instance, recently announced the removal of brominated vegetable oil, which is used as a flame retardant, from its Gatorade drink after 16-year old Sarah Kavanagh’s Change.org petition garnered more than 200,000 digital signatures. (The company is continuing to use it in Mountain Dew.)

“When I went to Change.org to start my petition, I thought it might get a lot of support because no one wants to gulp down flame retardant, especially from a drink they associate with being healthy,” Kavanagh said on The Dr. Oz Show. “With Gatorade being as big as they are, sometimes it was hard to know if we’d ever win.”[more]

Other unlikely crusaders have also had big success using the platform, which was founded in 2007. McKenna Pope, the 13-year-old who started a Change.org petition to convince Hasbro to consider boys in their marketing and design scope for the Easy-Bake Oven, garnered 45,000 signatures and media attention. McKenna and her family recently met with Hasbro executives to be shown design prototypes for Easy-Bake Ovens colored black, silver, or blue — considered more appealing for boys like her brother.

Meanwhile, a Change.org petition demanding the Boy Scouts of America re-examine its longstanding policy of excluding gays from serving as scout leaders, has gained nearly 469,000 signtures. The drive was begun by Ryan Andresen, a Scout in California who was denied his Eagle Scout badge after declaring he is gay, according to his mother. The petition also demands Andresen be given his award. (Scout leaders may reconsider the ban next week, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.)

Also garnering attention this week via Change.org: a mother/daughter duo using the site to pressure Victoria’s Secret into making a “Survivor Line” of pretty mastectomy bras. The petition, which had garnered more than 119,000 signatures as of 3 p.m., is to be presented to the company at its New York headquarters today. Petitioner Allana Maiden and her mother, Debbie Barrett, a 21-year survivor of the disease, will be joined by fellow survivors and friends in delivering the signatures.

“Victoria’s Secret is supposed to make women feel beautiful, yet the women that deserve that feeling the most get left out,” Maiden said in a statement.

Part of Change.org’s increasing sway owes itself to the wisdom of the crowd, which is seizing digital tools as never before, and to Jennifer Dulski, its new president and COO. Dulski is a former Google executive who headed project management for shopping and product ads. In an interview this week with CNN Money, Dulski said she aims to make Change.org “a globally meaningful and loved brand.” 

As she does, crusades hosted by her company’s site will continue to bring about change — including efforts to stop things from happening as well. In the San Francisco Bay Area, for instance, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has somewhat turned the progressive premise of change.org on its head, and is using the site to fight a renewable-power initiative that it claims will double utility rates for many customers.