Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Environmental Rewards Card

Lots of grocery stores offer an reward card, which tracks all of your purchases and gives you a discount on some of them as an incentive to use it. I would love to see Whole Foods (or other similar type of stores like Co-ops) offer a reward cards that instead of offering discounts it would allow you to login to a website and view the social and environmental impact of your purchases (of course discounts are find by me as well).

When you got home, you could login to the site and it would offer a Quicken like tool to track your impact on to the environmental and society based on your purchases. For example, it could track the environmental footprint of the products, the carbon emissions, the acres and gallons, the average wage of the employees that worked on the product, or any other information that would be valuable.

It would allow consumers to compare products on their social/environmental impact rather than just on price and quality. Right now if one product costs $5.00 more than the other you don't know why. With this tracking card, you figure out if it is because the company is paying higher than average wages, or they are producing the product in a more environmentally friendly way.

This website tool would also allow consumers to take a look at their yearly impact from shopping (how many acres did it take to grow my food, how many gallons of gasoline, how many tons of carbon dioxide, etc).

From Whole Food's perspective they are giving you an incentive to use the rewards card, which would make them more popular and cause a higher percentage of patrons to use it. This will make the data mining that companies like to do that much more valuable. It also allows them to attract the hard core social/environmental customer who wants this data but can't get access to it elsewhere. And that type of customer is willing to spend more for the high end socially responsible/environmentally friendly products. And by capturing this information it gives ordinary customers (who aren't willing to spend the time to view this stuff online) the impression that Whole Food's is serious about the social/environmental stuff and makes the customer feel better about their purchases.

Whole Foods would need to collect the data and store it in a database to allow this to work. It would require them to have all of their suppliers provide this data. By collecting the data, suppliers would become more aware of their impact and hopefully try to improve their products.

My hope would be then that other stores would attempt to compete with them on this and all reward cards would track this data. Hopefully they would all use a common format so you could aggregate all of your purchases into one Quicken view to see the impact of your total consumption.

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