While making any sort of transaction in the American marketplace, everyone must inevitably make decisions between competing companies and products. There are so many elements to consider. I consider energy efficiency, whether or not the manufacturing company supports the American economy and labor force, whether environmentally sustainable practices are employed, the content of ingredients — organic and non-toxic — and more. These make up a portion of the criteria I use to evaluate competitor products and companies while making a purchase — ensuring that my purchases reflect my ethical concerns, preferences and values, including my health and environmental impact. These are also the elements that make up my personal filter on GoodGuide.com.
GoodGuide is a relatively new online database — it was launched in 2008 — that aids consumers in making more informed decisions in the marketplace and provides an easy, comprehensive and novel approach to product review. University of California-Berkeley Environmental and Labor Policy Prof. Dara O’Rourke, the co-founder and chief sustainability officer of the company, has said that his mission is to make it easier to find products that are safe, healthy, green and socially responsible. GoodGuide is funded by social venture investors and traditional venture capitalists, and partnered with an extensive network of non-government organizations, academics and large companies.
How does GoodGuide work? Researching products and their origin can be an incredibly lengthy and time-consuming process. GoodGuide employs a crew, composed of chemists, nutritionists, environmental life cycle assessment experts and toxicologists, that has analyzed more than 120,000 products (household, personal, food, etc.) and the companies behind the product. They also use information based on more than 1,000 different sources: the companies themselves, governmental databases about the policies and practices of big publicly-traded firms, private research firms, NGOs, policy practices, political partisan endorsement, media sources and academics.
Once analyzed, the product analysis is broken down into three main sub-scores:
1. Human health impact — how the product affects the physical body.
2. Environmental impact — how the product is produced and manufactured as well as the supply chain, potential consequences, raw material origin, distribution, sale and disposal of a product.
3. Social responsibility — the impact on society the product or company has.
The product is then assigned a rating ranging from zero to 10 — the highest score indicates superb performance, and the lowest indicates subpar performance.
GoodGuide doesn’t stop there. You can install a toolbar onto your browser free of charge and utilize your personal filter and GoodGuide ratings on e-commerce sites in the online marketplace. Thus, when you are browsing, the bottom portion of your screen will show how the product matches your personalized filter, the GoodGuide rating and suggestions for alternative products that can better meet your standards, along with pricing and consumer ratings. Additionally, the new, cost-free smartphone app (iPhone and Android) scans the barcode of a product and sends all the online information straight to your phone. Your preferences and filter can be used virtually wherever you go.
GoodGuide empowers consumers by showing exactly what their capital is supporting, which leads to smarter, healthier and more environmentally friendly purchases. Why does this matter? As more and more consumers start to employ GoodGuide into their daily lifestyles, we will see a gradual change in the marketplace. Consumers’ preferences will become more defined, and large retail and manufacturing companies will feel the pressure and incentive to supply and meet the standards of this new market demand by making more environmentally sustainable products and producing them using ethical sourcing of raw materials and labors, according to O’Rourke. O’Rourke sees GoodGuide as a more transparent and sustainable marketplace that cuts through marketing and advertising — revealing the truth through the multilayer process and numerous players that go into the raw material, production, labor, politics, supply chain, manufacturing, distribution, marketing and sale of a product. O’Rourke hopes to see GoodGuide send a signal to companies that business as usual means business as sustainable.
Adrianna Bojrab is an LSA senior.