Finding the Good Through GoodGuide

by Ellen Lee on June 3, 2011

Is the sunscreen you’re slathering on your child made with potentially toxic chemicals? Was your lipstick tested on animals? Were the factory workers who made your cell phone treated well?

GoodGuide is aiming to answer these questions for consumers, arming them with the information they need to be smart, savvy shoppers.

GoodGuide was founded by Dara O’Rourke (pictured), a dad and a UC Berkeley environmental science professor who studies the global supply chain. Initially a university research project, it was spun out into a San Francisco startup in 2008.

From baby food to pet food, its team of scientists and researchers has investigated more than 101,000 products for health and safety, as well as environmental and societal impact. They’ve given each product a rating of 0 to 10, 10 being the best.

Consumers can access the data for free from GoodGuide’s website. As they’re out and about, they can also use an app on their iPhone or Android phone to scan the barcode of a product and look it up in GoodGuide’s database before they buy it.

Consumers have become increasingly wary about the products they purchase, given recent scandals such as lead found in popular toys. But it can be difficult to figure out just which ones are as healthy or organic as they claim or if it’s just a matter of clever marketing.

For small businesses, O’Rourke recommends that they be open and transparent about their mission and business operations, which can go a long way in recruiting employees, retaining customers, and building credibility. The ones that score the best on GoodGuide share the ingredients and background of their products; the ones that don’t disclose the information openly are dinged.

“Price always matters,” he says. “But people are looking for a combination of quality, brand, and value. Increasingly part of feeling good about a purchase is feeling good about the brand behind it. You want them to feel good about giving you their money.”