Technology Giving UK Shoppers the App to be Ethical

New technology via an app on your mobile phone allows UK shoppers to get real-time advice on the ethical status of goods and services; the Ethical Company Organisation’s best-selling Good Shopping Guide has used technology to turn itself into an app, using its ethical product research. It aims to cut through corporate 'greenwash', giving British consumers the chance to make informed choices about the ethical status of the goods and services they buy and is now available on iPhone, iPad and iPods priced at £2.99 ($4.85).

Ten per cent of net revenue will go to green group, Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Andy Atkins, Executive Director at FoE says, "Despite the recession more and more people want products and services that don't trash the planet - but don't have much time to investigate the best options themselves."

The app lists over 700 well-known brands, ranked in 72 product-specific league tables under seven main sections, from food and drink to health and beauty to travel and energy. A summary table shows ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ brands in relation to the environment, human rights and animal welfare; and points scores give an overall ethical rating to easily identify the best performing brands and companies.

This latest app follows close on the heels of last year’s launch of Barcoo, which allowed customers to use technology to scan the barcode of products in shops and find out how environmentally friendly a company is, or how it treats its staff. This new app does not use barcode technology as the developers felt too many smaller and newer brands could go undetected and slip through the ethical fishing net.

Although, there is growing awareness of the benefits of Fair Trade and organic goods, William Sankey, Director, Ethical Company Organisation believes there is less information that gives consumers an overall ethical footprint of the product and the company behind the brand and says, "Shoppers may be surprised to find that often there is not a price premium on ethical goods." Popularity is no predictor of a high ethical score in the guide. For example, in the tea section, the UK's biggest brand, Tetley Tea, scores an Ethical Company Index (ECI) rating of just 57 out of a 100, compared with Cafédirect Tea (100), Yorkshire Tea (96) and Typhoo (91).

William Sankey, adds, "Our readers asked us to develop a comprehensive comparison tool they could take into the shops. We could only have dreamed of such a neat mobile tool when we printed the first, painfully heavy, 350-page guide a decade or so ago." This shows just how far and how quickly we have come with technology, as it now influences our purchasing power.

Photo Credit: Monica Arellano-Ongpin