Nutrition labels already give consumers a quick summary of what their food contains. Hoping to bring the same transparency to the companies behind the products, Project Label creates "social nutrition" labels to track manufacturers' social and environmental responsibility.
Each company listed on Project Label is ranked according to various social and environmental criteria, including "people" issues such as community impact and worker treatment as well as "planet" issues such as waste management and treatment of animals. Unlike traditional nutrition labels, however, Project Label relies on the crowds to gather and weigh the evidence that goes into its rankings. Now in beta, the organization provides simple tools to allow consumers, businesses and organizations to add, discuss and vote on news, media and research that contains information relevant to its labels. Visitors to the site are invited to submit articles relating to companies’ social or environmental impact, thereby opening the topic for voting by the site's community. As votes on particular issues accumulate over time, the social nutrition labels of the companies in question gradually change to reflect users' opinion of the impact of the news. When consumers are faced with a decision between two products, they can then use Project Label's updated reports to guide their choice. They can also track companies of interest to them and compare manufacturers of competing products. In addition, tools are available to help them track the impact of their purchase decisions.
For the growing masses of ethical and green-minded consumers out there, a company's social and environmental behaviour is just as important as the ingredients in its products. Recognize that—and cultivate a track record of good behavior, made plain for all to see—and the joys of transparency triumph can be yours. Fail to do so, and the torments of transparency tyranny will shadow your every step. The choice is yours! ;-)
by NYTimes Magazine