Ethical shopping goes mobile with HowGood's updated app
HowGood has expanded its mobile app to include information on more than 200,000 products with high ethical and environmental standards, according to a company release.
By scanning barcodes, consumers will see a color-coded rating of ‘good’, ‘great’ or ‘best’, for rated products. Products must be considered better than 75% of all those produced in the U.S. to gain a rating, with only the top 5% of products qualifying for the ‘best’ category.
The app uses data from more than 350 independent sources and in-depth research about practices at different levels of the supply chain. Practices include environmental sustainability, fair wages for employees, ethical treatment of animals and more.
The HowGood rating system is already used in hundreds of stores across 26 states, but its expanded app puts that information in the hands of consumers. It is a potentially powerful tool that could change consumer buying habits and, ultimately, drive retailers toward stocking more ethically produced products.
Ahold-Delhaize's Giant chain recently partnered with HowGood in January, piloting the rating system in nine Giant stores in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. Giant stores support the program with signage, education at the shelf and a trained staff member to answer shopper questions.
Even if a retailer doesn't display HowGood ratings on their shelves, the app allows consumers to access the information from their phones as they shop.
It's important to note there is already a huge range of food labels giving consumers information on the sustainability and ethics of production, including Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Carbon Footprint and various animal welfare labels, but there is little evidence that such labels make a difference to consumer purchasing behavior. The developers of the HowGood system hope by bringing together these various ethical standards, such decisions will be simplified for shoppers.
The company also claims if it were to expand into all of Ahold-Delhaize's 6,000 plus U.S. stores, it could effectively promote 18 million more sustainable products every week, and shift 8% of America’s food stream toward better buying practices.
Trust in the rating system will be key, as research has shown nearly half of consumers (48%) distrust food labels. However, Mintel research has suggested ethics are becoming more important among U.S. shoppers, and 56% stop buying from a company if they consider it to be unethical. Retailers will need to watch whether consumers will pause their shopping to use the app and if the public is integrating it into their grocery experience when they decide how, or if, to respond.