B Lab (B Corps) x 1% for the Planet x Climate Neutral*
We prototyped a web extension that serves up green-certified companies as alternatives to polluters while shopping. The long game was to increase profitability of green-certified companies, and to call out greenwashers using a sassy sidekick.
*Brandcenter student project without a live client.
For Strategy & Design at Brandcenter, Caley Cantrell asked groups to create a tool, product or system that makes an impact on behavior or drives change towards a greener future.
Greenwashing is when companies cash in on our climate anxiety by claiming to do good for the planet without walking that talk.
Ninety percent of emissions are made before consumers make a single choice (90!), so corporate responsibility is far more important than what we do with our recycling. Plus, greenwashing is fraud (creating wealth from a lie), it erodes consumer confidence, and it makes the fight for our future feel even more daunting.
We wanted to fight greenwashing by making it easier for people to feel confident that they're buying green-certified products, and drive business away from greenwashers.
We ran two focus groups on green consumerism and sustainable habits.
We did research deep dives into third-party sustainability certification and web extensions.
We ran two surveys on whether consumers would pay more to shop sustainably, and backed that up with Mintel and Simmons reports.
We mapped out user journeys for someone who wants to shop sustainably.
The main trends we saw in our research:
Guilt & defeatism: People carry a lot of guilt about what they could be doing for the planet, which can often slip into "what difference could I make?"
Collectivism: But when people can visualize the impact that they/people like them are making, their decisions feel hopeful and meaningful.
People will spend green on green: We were consistently surprised by how many people are willing to spend more to know that they're being good to the planet.
But we have to make it easier to do good. Almost all the sustainable habits we heard about were built into the rhythm of the person's life. So, green has to be good design.
We decided the best approach to fight greenwashing was to serve up green-certified companies certified by B Lab, 1% for the Planet, and Climate Neutral. Together they have enough companies (11,000+) that the extension would almost always be able to come up with green alternatives.
The web extension would:
Pop up to warn shoppers when they were shopping with a known polluter/greenwasher, and offer alternatives.
Serve articles about the company's environmental record.
- Allow users to search a much more intuitive directory of green-certified companies.
(There's more! If you have questions about how T.A.G. works, reach out and we can walk through the prototype.)
Meet our mascot, T.A.G., the Troll Against Greenwashing.
He's witty, sarcastic, well read, and on social calling out greenwashing with the vibe of a Wendy's Twitter account.
T.A.G. encourages people to join him in the fight to "Troll Against Greenwashing," and to download the browser extension to save themselves from getting duped.
MRI Simmons later confirmed that this would work with Gen-Z/Millenial eco-conscious early adopters, who index high for "Adult Swim" style humor, but we kind of knew that in our bones.
T.A.G. isn't for everyone, but this will still work because:
11,000+ companies have a vested interest in promoting the T.A.G. extension (the growing number of B-Corp, 1% for the Planet, and Climate Neutral certified companies).
NPR ads: We would plan to advertise with NPR podcasts, which indexed high in Simmons with eco-conscious early adopters born before 1996.
Patagonia is a B Corp, founded 1% for the Planet, and is seeking Climate Neutral by 2025, and nobody gets earned climate media like Patagonia.
The market for T.A.G. is not niche. It's big and getting bigger.
According to Mintel (2022), 135m Americans (41%) are motivated to buy a product because of environmental standard certifications like B Corp. That’s up from 35% in 2021. If we can get just 2% to use the T.A.G. web extension, that’s 2.7m users in the US alone.
Web extension context: On Chrome alone, Honey has 17m users and Capital One Shopping has 7m. Given T.A.G.'s allignment with 11k companies, we think we'd have 3m users in year one.
Prove and improve profitability of green-certified companies: Green-certified companies are thriving, and they'll perform even better when T.A.G. makes them easy to find, while cutting out greenwashers.
Expand the roster of companies and certifications: Our “why” will always be to incentivize companies to get certified. T.A.G. is ultimately a means to collectivize consumer will. We'd also like to welcome other certifications (like Crade to Cradle) into the fold.
Shop local option: We'd like to add a feature to find a local sustainable or second-hand store. B Corp and Climate Neutral require some scale, but 1% for the Planet is accessible for businesses of all sizes. (We also learned that successfully sending people towards a thrift store that has what they're looking for is a massive design challenge.)
Discounts, but maybe not: We may allow promotions after proof-of-concept, but we don't want to become "a coupon app, but green." We want to prove that people will pay more when we make it easy to find green-certified companies.
Giving proper credit feels impossible with a group like this, which stuck together and worked to make every idea as good as it could be (and redirect some of my enthusiasm), but I'll give it a shot:
Molly Devereux: focus groups (additional thanks to Nick Martinez), surveys, deck design.
Kevin Kelleher: Figma prototype of the web extension.
Bella Piasentin: Social, T.A.G.'s persona, deck design.
Ed Keithly (me): Research, 'sustainability consultant,' copy editing.
I hope it's obvious that I could happily spend my life working on projects like this one. I think, read, and talk about sustainability ad nauseum --especially how we stop looking to our recycling bins for salvation, and instead work to require more of policy and industry.
MRI Simmons: data on the media habits of "eco conscious early-adopters" (people who care about corporate sustainability, are willing to pay more for sustainable products, and describe themselves as more tech-savvy than their friends and colleagues).
Mintel: 2022 Sustainability Barometer, Richard Cope
How to Save a Planet, a podcast that informed our big ideas (one that anyone still reading this should definitely listen to).
Mintel and MRI Simmons used with licenses issued to Virginia Commonwealth University.