Jacob Malthouse doesn’t have a plan to make a profit. His business, Big Room,Inc. has just released its first product, ecolabeling .org to address a need in the market, a need for some way to make sense out of all the labels making green claims… not to make money.
Spoken like a true social entrepreneur, I told Jacob when I spoke with him this week.
Ecolabeling.org addresses the challenge that many of us have: What do all of these certifications, seals of approval, standards and verifications actually mean. Is it truly green or is it just greenwashing? The independent database of over 300 labels (and growing) seeks to provide a one stop site for information on all types of green labels.
The goal of the site is to make it easier for people to make green choices. Ecolabelling.org and its blog provide up to date information and metrics on ecolabels around the globe arranged by type and region.
“The biggest interest in green products is shown by ‘mini van Moms’”, explains Malthouse. “And they don’t have time to research the labels on every product they buy.”
I can attest to that!
We started this site because the sheer number of labels can be enough to make your shopping trolley spin. We found ourselves asking who’s deciding what’s green, and what do these labels actually mean?
Malthouse and his team have three goals for their site.
- Provide information that is useful
- Provide information that is neutral and inclusive
- Share the data wherever it makes sense
I thought I’d start by finding out if they were reaching their first goal. Does the site provide useful information? A search on their site for Whole Trade Guarantee, a label prominently displayed on products at Whole Foods Markets, I found a brief explanation from the Whole Foods site and a link to it, as well as, a yet to be completed template of information about the label.
O.K. That’s more than I knew before. But, Malthouse and his team obviously have some work to do. He admits, they are still in start up stage, still growing. The volume of work ahead of them is somewhat daunting actually.
Part of the plan is to make ecolabeling.org an interactive site, one in which users of green products play a role. He hopes that as word gets out users will contribute more information and make this a central clearinghouse for green label information.
I hope so too!
Pressing him on the how he will make money issue, Malthouse mentions the possibility of a non-profit or a “solutions” based for–profit.
“I’m not sure”, he says, “Opportunities to capitalize will come up”. And that to a large extent is what defines a social entrepreneur. A twist on the common adage, “Do what you love and the money will come,” social entrepreneurs do what does good and feel confident they will be rewarded.
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