When the Internet first gained popularity, there were plenty of articles written and smart things said about its potential to allow consumers to communicate more directly with the companies they patronized. It seems that this truly Democratic idea has come to fruition. 2014 has already been a busy year for some big companies that have made important long-term agreements to reduce the impact on people's health and the environment — after being encouraged/pushed to do so by consumer groups.  

First up, Burberry: Via Greenpeace's Detox campaign, Burberry's agreement is to eliminate all hazardous chemicals from all products the brand produces or sells (with a priority for apparel). According to a news release, "In addition, by no later than end of June 2014, Burberry will start disclosing the chemical discharges of its suppliers in the global South. And, by no later than 1st July 2016, Burberry has committed to eliminate all per- and poly- fluorinated chemicals in its supply-chain." Burberry joins 18 other signers to the detox campaign, and the announcement follows staged protests at Burberry stores in major global cities by Greenpeace volunteers as well as "2 weeks of public pressure from fashion fans, the brand’s own customers and parents alike, all taking to Burberry’s popular social media channels to challenge the brand to act." 

Johnson & Johnson is also getting into the act. The Environmental Working Group announced that after several years of consumer pressure and petition campaigns, the company's popular "No More Tears" baby shampoo with no longer contain, "... quaternium-15, which releases small amounts of formaldehyde inside the bottle to serve as a preservative. The federal government declared formaldehyde to be a known human carcinogen in 2011. The company also says it has reduced levels of a suspected carcinogen, 1,4-dioxane, to traces in both its baby and adult products. By 2015, it has pledged to remove more chemicals from both its baby and adult product lines." 

L'Oreal has joined Nestle, Unilever and Ferro in another popular Greenpeace-sponsored campaign around fighting deforestation in Indonesia. The company has pledged to remove palm oil from all its products by 2020 (though Greenpeace is pushing them to do so sooner). What does palm oil have to do with forest destruction? According to Greenpeace's Tiger Challenge, "The palm oil sector is the greatest single cause of deforestation in Indonesia. Ministry of Forestry maps show that Indonesia is losing some 620,000 hectares of rain forest every year (an area greater than the size of Brunei), and is pushing iconic species such as the as few as 400 Sumatran tiger to the edge of extinction. Palm oil’s expansion into New Guinea and Africa is already threatening forests, sparking controversy and conflict with local communities."

The latest campaign with change-making potential? Bestselling author and health expert Kathy Freston is asking McDonald's to introduce a vegetarian burger option. With close to 90,000 signers on her change.org petition, Freston hopes to get a real non-meat option for the company's burgers — not just an expectation that vegetarians or those looking to avoid meat will want a salad or wrap stuffed with just veggies, which is the current meatless option at the fast-food giant. 

Related on MNN:  

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Burberry, Johnson & Johnson, L'Oreal bow to consumer pressure to make products healthier, safer
Some big corporations have been petitioned into making some big changes: Is McDonald's next?