eBay today unveiled a new ecommerce marketplace called WorldofGood.com by eBay, which offers products that have a positive impact on people and the planet, empowering consumers to align their social values with their shopping. As a result, the new site is both very consumer- as well as idea-centric.
Customers will be able to purchase products made from recycled or free-trade goods, buy organic, and/or support artisan women in developing nations. In addition, all of WorldofGood.com products will also be available on eBay.com, bringing these socially responsible products to eBay’s more than 84 million active users worldwide.
In an interview in July, former Senior Manager of Internet Marketing and current General Manager of WorldofGood.com, Robert Chatwani said, “Our challenge is not so much getting people to spend more. It’s about introducing alternative means of consumption.”
A solution the size of the problem
When Priya Haji, the founder of World of Good, Inc, and Chatwani got together in 2007, they wanted to create a solution the size of the problem of world poverty. According to Haji, commerce is the biggest democracy in the world, and as such, social change of such a scale needs to come from the economy.
Haji doesn’t want to discount philanthropy, though to her, the market model is a change model. It is self-renewing, providing incentives and revenue. Additionally, you don’t need exterior and periodic injections of capital in as many ways to sustain the viability of the endeavor.
According to their research, 4 billion people – often in developing nations – earn $1,500/year, and most businesses traditionally view these people as customers. WorldofGood.com wanted to inverse this fundamental approach. “We flipped it on its head,” said Chatwani. “Instead of bringing products into those markets, we are pulling out products from those areas with entrepreneurs.”
WorldofGood.com creates a venue for small producers to compete alongside larger, creating opportunities for those producers who normally go unrepresented in the marketplace.
Culture of openness
For Haji and Chatwani, WorldofGood.com’s consumer base is not those who want to be marketed to, but those who want to “discover” something. However, to discover responsible products has traditionally not been very convenient and untrustworthy. It’s WorldofGood.com’s goal to remove these “frictions,” in Haji’s words – deterrents to the efficiency and transparency of global marketplaces like these. Efficiency, transparency, values, and trust have as such become axioms for this project, incorporated into every aspect of the business from the transfer of information, the verification of sourcing conditions, to the security of transactions.
One interesting way they achieve this is through Trustology. Trustology is a nutritional label of sorts that verifies a social good that comes through the purchase. They are validated by certified third-party organizations, such as the Ashoka Foundation or Co-op America, to assure the conditions in which a product is produced and if it truly is “socially-responsible.” Each item’s Trustology is clearly displayed next to its listing.
The listings also allow for consumers to see exactly what type of good they are contributing to – be it towards people, the environment, or other types of causes. There is also an active community network, which was pre-launched earlier this year, to establish a comprehensive feedback system similar to what currently occurs on eBay. The result is that consumers know exactly what they’re getting and where they’re getting it from, helping them to ensure that each purchase is making an impact.
Chatwani says, “Even a small shift can make a significant change.” And if the new site manages to produce even a small shift in how and what we purchase, I’m sure it will do a world of good…