Messages From Our President & Board Chair

A Message From Our President

 

This has been a year of unprecedented challenges, daunting disruptions, and transformational change for all of us. All at once, our country is facing the worst public health crisis in a century, the worst economic crisis in nearly a century, and a long overdue reckoning with racial justice.

It’s a moment that is having a huge impact on every sector and every community. For consumers, it’s a moment that is making it harder than ever to know what and whom we can trust. And for our nation, it’s a moment of significant pain — but one that may in time give way to a new moment of healing. My hope is that you and your family are staying safe and healthy as you navigate these challenges.

In many ways, the moment we’re facing today bears a striking resemblance to the time of CR’s founding in 1936 — a period of challenge and disruption, as the country sought to bring itself back from the shock of the Great Depression. It was a time of struggle, but it was also a time when a flood of new, often-unvetted information was entering American homes through the radio. CR was created in that moment because people needed to know what information they could trust as they grappled with change and got back on their feet — and as our nation revisited the values that informed our economy in the wake of a crisis.

Eighty-four years later, fighting for trust, safety, and fairness has never been more important. As our everyday lives and choices become increasingly reliant on the digital world — especially in the time of COVID-19 — questions of trust are mounting. How can I stay safe during the pandemic? Whom should I turn to for sound health advice? What information can I count on to guide my family’s decisions? How can I navigate the marketplace when it’s so hard to distinguish fact from falsehood?

As we work to help people answer those questions confidently, we also know that misinformation can spread at far greater speeds than the truth. We saw that in no uncertain terms during the first few months of the pandemic: evidence-based health advice was dismissed, experts were ignored, science was disregarded, and the consequences of faulty information were often deadly. Now, leading public health experts tell us that an additional 150,000 or more Americans could die in the last two months of 2020 — but that we can cut that number essentially in half, saving about 80,000 people, if we all just wear masks when interacting with others. That is scientific information based on evidence — but it isn’t breaking through to enough people.

We don’t have to resign ourselves to the bad consequences of misinformation — if we lean on science and facts to guide our marketplace, we can build a better world. We can change the outcome of this pandemic, just as we can change so many outcomes in our society by leading with people’s values and voices, elevating expertise and trustworthy information, and ensuring robust accountability.

We have to bring that trust to every area of our lives — because we know what happens when we don’t have it. What are the consequences if we buy a car seat, a crib, or a home surveillance system without having access to the real facts about those products? What are the consequences of buying food from the supermarket or drinking water from the tap if we can’t trust the government agencies charged with protecting us to look out for our interests? As algorithms govern more and more of the options we see and the prices we pay, what are the consequences if we can’t rely on them not to perpetuate biases?

CR has been working on every one of these fronts this year to inject truth into our lives at the time we need it most. Scientific rigor, independent investigations, research and advocacy — all informed by what consumers are experiencing in the marketplace — continues to guide the way we work and approach problems. And all throughout this tumultuous year, the remarkable CR team hasn’t missed a beat, even as we’ve had to adjust our own work to meet the realities of the coronavirus.

I’m proud to report that, this year, we deployed free, timely, expert advice for navigating the coronavirus era — equipping families to safely purchase, handle, and prepare food, make smart choices about disinfectant products, and make their homes safe for children.

We shone a light on the dangers of microplastics in our food and water, continuing our successful long-term effort to bring greater trustworthiness to the products we consume.

We successfully pressured automakers to make pedestrian detection a standard feature of cars — 61 percent of 2020 models now come standard with this life-saving technology, up from 38 percent the previous model year.

Working directly with CR members, we also continued our work to expose and eliminate the hidden fee economy, spearheading bipartisan legislation in Congress to tackle unfair fees in the cable TV and airline markets.

Our investigations exposed critical problems with Facebook’s facial recognition settings — work that was cited late last year when the Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook a record $5 billion for its privacy failures.

As Zoom became the communication tool of choice for millions of Americans this year, we uncovered serious privacy and data security issues with the software, which the company has begun to address in response.

And finally, recent CR reporting on medical algorithms uncovered the fact that people were in some cases not getting treatments they needed based on their race — while our look at price-setting algorithms in the insurance industry revealed that many middle-aged drivers are forced to pay more simply because an algorithm decided that they were less likely to search for a competitive deal.

We’re proud of the work we’ve done with and for consumers this year — but we know how much more there is to do. In the year ahead, our work will continue to focus on your safety, the importance of financial fairness in the marketplace, standing up for digital rights in an online world, and making sure that sustainability of products and our environment is a priority.

Together, we can emerge from this challenging moment by building a trustworthy marketplace with accountable institutions and credible information — a marketplace that is responsive to people and our interests by default.

CR will rely on its independence, rigor, and experience to get there — following the facts wherever they might lead. With over 500 staff made up of technologists, scientists, journalists, researchers, and advocates dedicated to a mission rooted in truth, transparency, and fairness, we are working harder than ever to continue earning your trust — and to continue building a marketplace that puts you and your needs first, no matter what disruptions the world has in store.

Marta L. Tellado, Ph.D.,
President & CEO of Consumer Reports

 

A Message from Our Board Chair

 

The unprecedented times we’re living through today have shed new light on the necessity of a fair and just marketplace — and the importance and relevance of CR’s mission. As the Chair of the CR Board, it’s been my honor to help guide this organization at a vital moment, and to witness firsthand how the CR staff has risen to meet new challenges.

Transforming this organization to deliver on its mission in the midst of a pandemic is no small task — and the way that the CR team stepped up is a true testament to the dedication and commitment they bring to this work. As our testers, journalists, advocates, technologists, and everyone else who makes CR run adapted to the new challenges and opportunities of remote work, they never once dropped the ball or lost sight of the goal.

Because of them, more than 18 million unique visitors found the trusted information they needed to manage this crisis on CR.org — in March alone. Our advocates gathered 2.3 million petition signatures, and thousands upon thousands of stories, to inform and advance our efforts to put people first. And we continued to expose and seek solutions to the newest wave of threats brought on by the pandemic, the economic crisis, and everything else that 2020 delivered.

I believe that this period of time will mark a significant chapter for CR — a landmark moment that stands out amid the long, proud legacy of this organization. As the ground continues to shift beneath consumers’ feet with alarming speed and fury, the role of a mission-driven nonprofit working to give them stability and trust is as important as it has ever been. Being a part of that work at this critical juncture is an honor — and it is our privilege to help deliver for people when they need trust the most.

As my tenure as Board Chair draws to a close, I want to thank Marta, our colleagues, and, most of all, you — our six million dedicated members — for everything you do to advance this vital work. I look forward to all that we’ll continue to accomplish for consumers together as we chart an exciting course for CR and navigate the new and evolving challenges of a changing world.

Annette LoVoi,
Board Chair