Technology Supporting Product Transparency

Mar 1, 2011 10:30 AM ET

What Do You Stand For?

For consumers who are increasingly concerned about how the products they buy are sourced and made – there’s a (m)app for that. Sourcemap, developed by a team from the MIT Media Lab, is an open-source, volunteer-driven website that maps the supply chains of consumer goods. Individuals will soon be able to determine the carbon footprint of all the goods they consume, from orange juice to Xbox 360s. Sourcemap is in the early stages of adoption and the list of goods that have already been mapped is limited but, fortunately, a partnership between Office Depot and New Leaf Paper is bringing the tool to mass market attention.

Sourcemap is not alone. A new era of technology-aided tools is bolstering corporate transparency and helping consumers understand the source and make-up of their favorite products. Good Guide provides a mobile barcode scanning application that works in real time, telling consumers the health, environmental and social impacts of products. For those who want a more qualitative experience, there is Social Yell – an online community that allows users to search and share information about socially responsible companies.
Disclosure of this caliber can be scary, but it can actually work to a company’s benefit. Cone’s research shows consumers want to be engaged in helping companies become more responsible and tend to be more forgiving of those that have put forth the effort to build a dialogue. Transparent brands will undoubtedly reap the greatest reputational benefits, helping to foster trust and loyalty among current and potential consumers.

Posts under the Knowledge Leadership byline come from Knowledge Leadership team members Sarah Kerkian and Casey Brennan. Follow us on Twitter: @ConeLLC, @SarahKerkian, @CaseyB