When I first learned about World of Good, I was pretty excited about it. Unlike other web retailers of housewares, accessories, and gifts, it peddles only fair-trade, sustainably made products. It also actively supports worldwide community-development projects through its nonprofit arm.
Granted, World of Good’s selection is somewhat limited, but that’s because of the stringent process it follows to choose its vendors, most of whom are small groups of artisans. All are affiliated with social and economic development programs, and each product is screened in regards to its environmental footprint, production process, and community benefit.
All very cool.
But what got me really excited was talking with World of Good’s global marketing associate Matt Levinthal about an upcoming project: a joint effort by World of Good and eBay to create a large online marketplace for ethically made artisanal products. The platform itself doesn’t have a name yet, but the initiative to develop it is called Project Good. The goal is to launch before the holidays.
Levinthal says the site will feature multiple sellers (including World of Good), thousands of products, and, most important, about 25 different “trust providers”—independent, mission-driven verifying organizations with clear sets of standards—to give users the type of information that is so sorely lacking in most shopping environments: details on sustainability, labor conditions, etc.
“People really want to make good choices, but it’s just not easy for them to do it,” Levinthal says.
Don’t expect to be able to buy any type of product on the site. It’ll be a source for things like handmade jewelry, apparel, home furnishings, and chocolate, not DVDs and lawn mowers.
But the important thing about this project is that it will advance the notion of social responsibility as an in-demand product attribute—as well as the idea that we consumers have a right to know what goes into the making of all the stuff we buy. If this initiative takes off, there will be a demand for similar enterprises that cover even more product categories. (The closest thing I can think of that currently exists is Alonovo, which I’ve blogged about before, but for it to reach the next level, it needs to provide ratings for far more goods than it is currently able to.)
“Access to information enables consumers to make good choices,” Levinthal says. “Companies will have to follow. That whole idea of a third-party verifier, trade organization, or some other body that provides approval will become the only thing that people trust, and will become the norm, we believe.”