Over the past ten years a shift in consumer expectations has emerged. A recent article out of MIT [PDF] revealed that not only do consumers care about the corporate responsibility of companies that they buy from, but they are “in fact willing to pay more for ethically produced goods.” The research also suggests that consumers “punish” unethical companies by not buying from them or desiring a discounted price compared to the products that ethical companies offer.
The ease of finding these companies can sometimes be problematic, with actual facts and good deeds hard to identify . But a few new media srouces have taken on that problem to make it easier for consumers to learn about companies’ corporate citizenship and CSR acvitities. Is your company a responsible corporate citizen? Find out what consumers are learning with these sources.
Launched by Alexander Gillett of Tec Consulting, Scryve.com is an easy way for people to visit, shop, and buy from sites that reflect good CSR practices. Relying on consumers, researchers, and the corporate responsibility firm KLD, this website examines and rates companies on their social responsibility based on their environmental, social, and community impacts. These include company history, labor relations, and a variety of other indicators as well as annual reports, SEC records, and industry publications.
Graded on a scale of 1 to 10, the website lets users view the rating of their choice company as well as contribute to the ratings while suggesting similar companies with better ratings and reviews. Users can them choose which company to use based on their different corporate responsibility rating.
A downloadable widget is also available that can be used in conjunction with Google Chrome, which displays the Scryve rating in the browser when a company’s website is opened along with a review of their business. Over 3,500 companies have currently been rated with more being added continuously.
This site is owned by the non-profit organization Knowmore, Inc. with the goal of creating creating more conscientious consumers. The site hosts a reliable database of corporate violations on democracy, human rights, and the environment. This databse relies on a commuity of web-based users to update and contribute information. Based on WIKI technology, the websites content can be uploaded by anyone with information about a company while being monitored for bias or mistakes by editors and users of the site. There is also the ability to edit, upload information, or even question the material within the site in an easy to use way. After compiling all the information provided by users the site rates the company in a way that summarizes all of the information about it.
The organization also offer a Firefox add-on called KnowMore Extension. Similar to Scryve’s widget, the extension notifies users when they are using a website that has ethical or unethical practices. If the latter, the extension indicates what issues the company has acted questionably in, such as environmental issues and human rights.
Taking a different approach, this website produces “social nutrition labels.” Instead of simply listing the facts about companies, Project Label compiles its information into labels similar to food nutrition labels – but these labels contain the social and environmental health of the companies. By providing easy to read numbers and data about companies’ social impacts, consumers have a simple way to differentiate products. Project Label’s goal is to create a desire for “socially nutritious” companies, as well as to build and disperse the knowledge about the importance of such companies.
Built off of the content contributed by a variety of sources, from journalists to researchers to consumers, companies do not receive a rating from the website but rather the users. Then, organized into a label similar to the labels on packaged foods, users can see different ratings for different areas of the company such as community impact, product safety, waste management and a variety of others. Articles used for the ratings are included in the company profile along with the ratings from different organizations.
Though voted on by the community, bias is continually checked by the site who continuously check the votes.
Offering detailed information on over 65,000 products and companies, Good Guide is concerned with helping consumers find the best and worst companies that provide food, toys, personal care, and households products. Founded by Dara O’Rourke, a professor of environmental and labor policy at the University of California and an expert on global supply chains, the site was launched in 2007 and is backed by scientists and technology experts to provide product information. It offers not only a product’s overall rating but a list of detailed ratings composed of its health risks and environmental risks. Included in this is a description of the company the product comes from along with a rating of that company.
Good Guide also offers an app that consumers can use as they shop. Named by Forbes as one of the top 10 socially responsible mobile apps the GoodGuide free app can scan up to 50,000 product’s barcodes and list ratings for environmental, health, and social responsibility.
These are some tools that not only allow consumers to pick and choose companies that have high ethical standards, but also point out the companies that do not. The popularity of these kinds of apps proves once again, as studies have revealed, doing good means doing good business. How does your company measure up?