Don't want to shop woke? This might be the place for you.
Marketplace for non-woke companies gains popularity as CEO calls for progressive politics out of business
As corporate America increasingly embraces equity, climate activism and other ideas associated with progressive politics, a growing network of businesses is bucking the trend, promoting constitutional values and offering what its founder described as "high-quality products from people who don't hate you."
PublicSq. describes itself as a "marketplace" designed to "join thousands of freedom-loving Americans in shopping quality products, services, and exclusive discounts from values-aligned businesses."
According to its website, PublicSq. is "pro-life, pro-family, pro-freedom."
Launched as an app in October 2021, California-based PublicSq. went public last month after entering into a business arrangement with Colombier Acquisition Corp. The self-described "values-aligned marketplace" is currently in all 50 states and boasts over half a million consumers with accounts — it's free to join — and nearly 50,000 participating businesses.
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The rapid growth in large part stems from what PublicSq.'s founder and CEO Michael Seifert described as corporations not only embracing, but also advocating progressive politics in a blatant way.
"Over the last decade we've witnessed corporate America largely running against values that tens of millions of Americans who love their country still hold dear," Seifert told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview. "They don't want to be lectured about progressive politics, gender ideology, affirmative action. They just wanted to be treated with respect and dignity."
A leading driver in corporate America's mixing of business and politics is environmental, social, and governance investing (ESG).
ESG is based on the concept that investors should use these three broad categories when evaluating where to put their money, prioritizing progressive values and "social responsibility" when making financial decisions.
The theory underpinning ESG is that corporations should deemphasize their traditional responsibility to maximize value for shareholders and instead make new commitments to alternative stakeholder groups, serving other interests and society at large.
Many investors now use ESG as a rating system to measure a company's advancement of policies designed to address climate change, increase corporate board demographic diversity, and support a progressive "social justice" agenda, among other initiatives.
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As a result, according to a recent report, several of the country's largest and most influential corporations pose a "high risk" of canceling a contract or client or of boycotting, divesting or denying services for purely ideological reasons.
Critics of what they describe as "corporate wokeness" have been mobilizing against the march of ESG advocates, arguing the financial movement is a way to push left-wing causes through business rather than the legislature. Leading the charge is Seifert and PublicSq.
"The fact we exist highlights the reality that corporate America has lost sight and touch with what the American people are looking for," he said.
Seifert added that he believes companies are violating their fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders by sacrificing the main financial objectives of the company for a "woke agenda" and not necessarily doing what the shareholders want.
"This could lead to the ruin of the economy," Seifert said of companies prioritizing progressive goals, arguing the risks of quotas and the potential of lowering standards in the name of equity and diversity can lead to "disastrous" consequences.
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"We believe in merit," he explained. "We shouldn't socially engineer the marketplace. That is completely antithetical to true equality. We're all human beings and deserve a fair shot."
Seifert outlined how his team's goal is to create the "nation's largest network of businesses that won't cancel you," adding PublicSq. will not spend time or money "antagonistically against your values."
If a business wants to join PublicSq.'s network, a vetting team checks up on the company to see that it fits with the vision of the marketplace. The business then agrees to respect five core pillars listed on the PublicSq. website:
- We are united in our commitment to freedom and truth — that's what makes us Americans.
- We will always protect the family unit and celebrate the sanctity of every life.
- We believe small businesses and the communities who support them are the backbone of our economy.
- We believe in the greatness of this Nation and will always fight to defend it.
- Our Constitution is non-negotiable — government isn't the source of our rights, so it can't take them away.
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When asked about potential criticism that PublicSq. is simply substituting corporate conservativism in place of corporate wokeness, Seifert said the only values he and his team seek to promote are in the Constitution and should be shared by all Americans.
"We're not trying to peddle the message of one particular political party," he said. "We're trying to push constitutional values. Never will you hear us say anything about promoting conservatives or the Republican Party. We don't pick sides. And we didn't make up these values. They're essentially paraphrased from the Constitution."
As for how consumers can use PublicSq., it is pretty straightforward. Users can access it either by the app or going online and searching for anything from a coffee shop to a plumber — and everything in between.
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"Our vision is to meet the needs of a hundred million Americans who feel forgotten," said Seifert. "We want to provide high-quality products from people who don't hate you or your values. "It's really that simple."