Sustainability and ethical consumption are generally seen as vital. But in a world of increasingly complicated global supply chains, it can be incredibly difficult for people to make informed decisions about the products they buy.
Enter eQuality, a mobile app which last month won the #Connect2Effect London hackathon, run by the Influx Trust (see our introduction to the contest). The app, currently a concept and prototype, helps busy consumers to quickly assess the social, environmental and political impact of products before they buy them.
The team came up with the idea in just 48 hours for the Hackathon, and are now looking to turn it into a reality. That’s why they’re seeking support through #Connect2Effect’s crowdfunding platform, with a view to creating a successful and financially viable product. If the product does well enough, then the team will have a chance to present it to the UN’s Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation.
We talked to Ben Minot, eQuality’s co-founder, to learn more about the team’s idea, their goals, and their next steps.
What do we need to know about eQuality?
The eQuality app is a really clever tool that lets you quickly work out if what you’re about to buy has been ethically produced. The application can also guide you towards smarter and more sustainable choices.
What’s the story behind the idea?
Thinking about AR (Augmented Reality) concepts for Google Glass a few years back, I was inspired by the possibilities of finding out the back story behind everything around us. I thought, why not leverage the technology to help us use our buying power to drive positive change?
How can eQuality change our purchasing decisions?
If you think about it, when we’re shopping there’s a lot going on to keep us from making conscious decisions. Distractions are everywhere, whether a screaming baby or push notifications. Shops are very good at throwing us off our game so we make that impulse purchase, which, if we really thought about, might not be so great for the environment.
What was it like participating in the #Connect2Effect hackathon?
The Hackathon was a tremendous experience! To come together and create something, from ideation to execution, in 48 hours was a mind-blowing experience. It reinforced my belief that the standard of talent, students, professionals, organisers and mentors in the UK is outstanding.
How can you convince more people to embrace this idea?
We believe this is an idea whose time has come. People want to do the right thing by voting with their wallets, but they honestly don’t know where to start. The right tools don’t exist yet. We aim to change that.
Is there a lesson you’ve already learned through this process?
I think the main lesson was to listen. Listen more to the team and the other participants, the advisors etc. Most importantly, listen to the people who will be using the app. When we hit the streets with the app, the data that came from those one-on-one conversations was invaluable.
You’ve just launched the project on the #Connect2Effect crowdfunding platform. How can crowdfunding help you reach your goals?
There’s so much work that goes into the back-end of this idea. Creating the data-mining aggregation software needed will take time and money. Then there’s designing the perfect tool so that it’s easy to use and familiar. It’s a bit like surfing. It looks easy, but it may take six months or a year to catch your first wave.
What were the initial comments you’ve heard about your campaign?
So far the response has been phenomenal; we’ve had interesting discussions with some pretty major players. We’re not at liberty to say more, but watch this space. We discovered that CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is becoming a very real part of almost every company’s strategy. In some countries it’s already mandated. The people we spoke to see sustainability tech as extremely forward-thinking.
What it’s like getting ready to present your project in the United Nations HQ?
The possibility of being able to present our idea, and the potential weight that it carries, is not lost on us. To get a chance to stand up in front of one of the most powerful legislative bodies in the world and state our case is a massive opportunity.
What are your next steps?
We’re refining the product and meeting with advisors to make sure we are approaching this initiative properly. That means looking at marketing, finance and partnership strategies, as well as seeking out like-minded people who want to join us on this thrilling journey. Even though this is a philanthropic endeavour, it will still need to be financially viable and built with serious business acumen to survive.
How would you summarize your idea and the message you’re trying to convey?
We believe the truth to be a basic human right. Honest, unbiased information about the things we consume is getting harder to come by, and this is having a massive global impact. eQuality puts the power to change that in the palm of your hand.
Which social profiles do you use so we can follow you?
Facebook: www.facebook.com/equalityapp (Choose eQuality)
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