The Pharos Project: Applied Radical Transparency

The Pharos Project: Applied Radical Transparency

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 1:00pm



The Pharos Project, at its core, is a campaign for transparency in the building materials market.  What we are creating is the ultimate campaign tool:  a tool for users to locate the best materials  to meet their current needs and enduring values; a tool to help cut through the prolific greenwashing; a space where users can discuss what makes a product truly green; and, most importantly, a platform from which to show manufacturers what constitutes a market in support of the best environmental, health and social equity practices. 

Ensuring users have access to the “how and why” of a Pharos Project score is the cornerstone of our system. We don’t resort to the thumbs up or thumbs down methodology of the first generation of certifications and labels that often left us wondering if existing eco-labels were reliable, consensus-based certifications or, instead, industry-sponsored greenwash.  
Part of the challenge is to present the information we have gathered about products in an intuitive, yet credible, way that is completely transparent. Therefore, we have boiled each of our impact categories down to: an ideal (the ultimate material), a goal (what can realistically be achieved in the near future), the problem (what needs to be avoided in the current situation). We score each product against four impact categories and create a 1-10 color-coded score based on benchmarks that plot progress toward that category’s ideal. It’s both simple to read and easy to compare products. 
We recognize that transparency mandates that we release all of the data we use to create these scores. So, we do.  When visiting a Pharos product profile, simply click on any of the impact category scores in the upper right hand corner (the grey, black or colored boxes with numbers inside of them) and you will be linked to what is behind the score: the scoring methodology, the product data, and the documentation, meticulously sourced and verified.  We understand that not everyone wants that level of detail, but the need for transparency demands it, and we are happy to lead by example.