Friday, October 03, 2008


From Earth2Tech:

GoodGuide rates products based on data that falls into three categories: social, environmental (including carbon footprint) and health. Each rating is based on more than 140 pieces of such information, such as whether or not a product has been tested on animals, what its ingredients are — even whether or not its parent company has women or minorities on its board. The data itself comes from hundreds of private and public sources, among them government, non-profits and private, third-party research firms.

He even envisions consumers checking out the site on their mobile phones as they browse the shopping center aisles. In three weeks GoodGuide plans to launch an iPhone app, and they already have a text messaging application that will SMS you the rating.
I have been looking for a way to compare products on social and environmental attributes based on standard data, and this is the best website I have seen so far. I really like the idea of an iPhone app to allow you to compare products while at the store.

GoodGuide gives each product a 1-10 rankings on health, environment and social performance. Each category is then broken down into specific rated attributes such as labor & human rights for social performance. You can take a look at Tom's Of Maine Natural Baby Shampoo for an example of how it works.

I like how it is data driven and you can see the source of where each score came from. I would actually like the ability to drill down even deeper and see more information on the sources such as scoring criteria, assumptions made and data collection techniques.

I also like this:
In the future, GoodGuide will have tools to let consumers screen this data through their own personal preferences, allowing them to "filter" and search for products and companies that match their specific values.
I could see environmental organizations and churches setting up different scoring systems based on their values. I would also like to be able to create my own filter based on what I value.

One thing I don't like about the current rating system is that it doesn't tell you how large the impacts are of your decisions. I mean is there really much of an environmental impact from purchasing dental floss and will changing to another brand really make much of a difference? It is not clear which products have the largest impact and are the most important to focus on.

The initial product categories are very limited with just personal care and household chemicals. The number of products under each category is also limited. While I understand that they have to start somewhere, there aren't really enough products to make this service very useful. Hopefully they will be adding new products and categories quickly. I hope they add personal electronics soon.

It would also be helpful if you could do head to head comparisons between two products. You could bring up the product you are currently using and then see what the impact would be of switching to a different product.

Another way to make this information more accessible would be to create a browser plugin (similar to this idea) that displays this information when I am browsing products at Amazon, and could also suggest a few replacement products that have better social and environmental records.

Overall, I think this is a great idea and am glad that someone is collecting the data and making it available in an easy to understand way, but it needs more products and some additional features before it is really useful.

More information on GoodGuide is available from Wired and TechCrunch.

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