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Beat The Greenwash and Make Smart Consumer Decisions: Product Information Sent To Your Phone While You’re Shopping

Fight greenwashing with modern toolsEver been in a shop and returned home empty handed because you didn’t know if a product was green? Those days might soon be over. You soon will be able to check out top-of-the-range scientific product information on your cell phone when you’re shopping. A new startup company called Goodguide is launching, a real product to combat greenwash that’s up to the task of being competitively effective because it delivers instant information when consumers need it.

The idea was born in Berkeley’s Sustainability Information Lab. The professor who heads up the company said in an interview with Wired.com that Goodguide encapsules information about thousands of products in the health, social and environmental categories. Its supply chain data centre was compiled during the last decade by scientists with access to 200 public and private data sources. Goodguide is a metrics model. It assigns datapoints for what classifies as green in a product.

The exact score system is complicated, reflecting the complex production processes of most products. But Goodguide goes a long way in enabling ordinary people to make informed product choices in a standardized, logical way. The use of Goodguide is free.

Dara O’Rourke, the Berkely professor who launched the company, says that thus far he hasn’t seen any strong evidence of changes in the supply chain that would indicate that producers are greening up. What really influences change in the supply chain is consumer spending, he says.

The product complements efforts made by sites like Alonovo.com, the US online store that pioneered green buying with in-depth product research. This also is a drastically comprehensive research platform. Both Goodguide and Alonovo measure producer behavior and make their findings an educational experience, one aspect that makes these products valuable in our “experience economy“. At Alonovo you can set your own value standard, and begin shopping, browsing through lists of products, all ranked.

The people behind the product information packages say that their main challenge is to find out just how educated the consumer wants to be. If they provide data that is too scientific their efforts will fall by the wayside. Yet if they’re too populist, they risk losing their authority. That’s why Goodguide works with a score system. The company is still in beta and is only sending out text messages to subscribers. But it will start delivery and packaging of its information in various other ways in the next few weeks. Their iPhone app will go live any moment now. Goodguide has opted to keep its API open so that developers can create other applications for data sharing.

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Comments

  1. Thanks so much for an excellent article about alonovo.com and goodguide.com. I have the personal pleasure of knowing Professor Dara O’Rourke and we are very pleased to be at the forefront of many terrific efforts.

    The connection of how corporations behave with their profit (by informing and educating about such behavior as people are considering a purchase) is a mission that was started many years ago by Alice Tepper Marlin, now the Executive Director of Social Accountability International. I’m very excited about our effort, Dara’s and others such as Michel Gelobter’s ClimateCooler.com, Citizensmarket.org (a non-profit effort started by a group of Harvard folks) and others.

    I view our work as vital, without getting political (always a challenge for me!) -as government regulation and enforcement ebb and flow based upon various administrations, the only consistent way for society to protect itself from egregious business behavior is through collective informed action. Horrific behavior such as Union Carbide in Bhopal, Exxon-Mobil’s funding of anti-Global Warming “science” and other behaviors that were grounded in Milton Friedman’s principles that the only responsibility a corporation has is to maximize profit).

    I believe services like alonovo exist not as a constraint to economic growth, but to allow a partnership to form between business and society. By adding intelligence to the demand side of the supply-demand equation we can have a fair, sustainable and growing market-based economy.

    Thanks again for a great article!

  2. Hi George,

    Thanks for you comment. Angelique did a great job on the article for us, I’m glad you think so too!

    Please keep up your good work. Sometimes it is hard to remain optimistic and, as you say, informed public awareness and action is key to a sustainable future.

    Regards,
    Tom

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