Imagine you’re in a shop and not certain whether the product you’re about to buy deserves the green credentials the packaging indicates it has. You get out your iPhone and key in the name of the product. The next moment you’re presented with all the scientific information about the ingredients, manufacturing processes and much much more. In the next few weeks, that’s going to be reality if all goes to plan with new startup company Goodguide.
Having only just been launched, Goodguide combats greenwashing by sending product information directly to consumers on the spot. The company is still in beta but its promise is wildly alluring. Because rather than having to go back and forth to your computer to research certain products, Goodguide simply delivers you product information as and when you need it.
Goodguide, which emerged from Berkeley’s Sustainability Information Lab, says it provides real, verified scientific data about health, social and environmental products. The information in Goodguide’s database is vast. It was compiled during the last ten years by scientists who researched the ins and outs of the supply chain, accessing 200 public and private data sources. The result is an as yet basic metrics model assigning datapoints for what classifies as green.
The score system is complicated, but that only counts in Goodguide’s favor, because production processes are incredibly complicated at the best of times. Goodguide goes a long way to help you understand product intricacies in a standardized, logical way.
If one overriding conclusion can be drawn from the research, it is that what influences change in the supply chain most of all is consumer spending, rather than manufacturing methods. “Most shampoos are pretty similar, so there isn’t a lot of difference for most products, but there are some where your purchase can make a huge difference,” says Dara O’Rourke, the Berkely professor who heads up the company in an interview with Wired.com.
The information Goodguide distributes is totally free. O’Rourke says it’s the most comprehensive and reliable set of data ever made freely available to the public. His competition comes from sites like Alonovo.com the US online store that pioneers green buying with in depth product research. When it was launched, the concept was also tipped to be one of the most comprehensive research initiatives. The platform offers shoppers the opportunity to buy virtually any product. Actual purchases are linked directly with a green cause in various carbon offsetting schemes.
Just like Goodguide, Alonovo’s producer behavior measuring transparency also makes shopping an educational experience. Shoppers start out by setting their ‚Äòvalue standards’, and then search lists of products. Alonovo’s ultimate aim is to provide corporate behavioral information about all products. Shoppers can decide what they prefer best before proceding to the Amazon powered checkout. A total of 50% of the purchase goes to the cause a buyer supports.
The quality of the information that Alonovo and Goodguide provide is both top of the range. In many ways it’s almost easier to provide information that’s too good almost. O’Rourke pointed that out in his interview with Wired.com, saying that he and his colleagues have yet to pinpoint exactly what the crossroads are between the scientific information they’ve got available and what consumers want.
Where Goodguide definitely has an edge over Alonovo is in its delivery and packaging of the information. The company this week has started its service by sending out information by text messages. Their iPhone app will go live in the next few weeks. The company has an open API which developers can use to create other applications for data sharing.