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Goods and Services Database

FROM: Brad Evans

What NEED does this meet?
Since the end of the cold war, the globalized economy (with all it's pluses and minuses) has taken over to become the most powerful system in the world. My idea is attempt to address the 'minuses' of globalization and to provide a balancing system to keep it in check.

Right now the majority of consumers base their purchases of goods and services based on price. They ignore the problems that their choices cause to societies and the environment. People buy the cheapest rugs not knowing that this causes child labour in the third world, or people buy product X not knowing that it requires that harmful chemicals are used in creating it.

Also the informed bargaining power that consumers once had in purchasing has been lost in a complicated obscurity. I cannot choose product X over product Y because I know that the CEO of the manufacturing company is a disreputable person. We have gone too far from the marketplaces of old, where haggling kept prices in check and more than just money guided our purchasing.

What is the APPROACH?
My plan is to provide more information to consumers by using freely available databases on the Internet. The price of apples in Toronto can be compared to the price in London. If I want to buy product X, I can find out who makes it, what is used in building it, in what countries is it manufactured. How do those country rate in their labour and environmental laws.

This idea will require technical people, information providers, information arbitartors, some sort of online court to judge with information is most truthful and what parties providing mis-information.

The glut of information compiled in these databases will be too much for one person to understand. Consumer groups would have to step forward to interpret it for particular people in particular regions.

As a consumer I would pick a consumer group that reflected my personal tastes, philosophy and region. I would join the Urban-Middle-Age-Environmentally-and-Politically-Concerned-Christian-Slightly-Right of-Center-Male-of-Southern-Ontario-Canada-Consumer-Group. My group would tell me what the best car for me to buy would be and where to buy my groceries.

These consumer groups would probably become a shaping force in future economies and political landscapes.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
I believe that the global society that we have needs a balancing force. This force is to be found in informed consumerism and not in political idealogy.

Consumers will join primarily to gain marketplace power. To find the best buys and to set proper prices. They can also rest easier that their consumer choices are not causing suffering in other parts of the world and to our environment.

By careful purchasing consumers vote on changes that bring us all a better world.

What is the COMPETITION?
There may be other such databases out there, but they are regional or for a certain area of products. Consumer Reports Magazine has information but it is not as complete as I would like and requires that I subscribe to their information. Other databases are available only to certain groups.

I think an open source non-commercial idea has to work. It is an idea to counterbalance the commercial world where there is a lot of mis-information, vested interests and money is king.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Well since it's an open source project, peoples time and expertise will not be a cost. I see this as a good opportunity to bring non-technical people into the open source world. This idea will require legal, political and commercially minded people. It will need information providers from all over the world. It will need organizers to make all this work.

Ways of handling the Global Goods and Services Database need to be devised and control by a central but unbiased authority.

I think most of the development will occur in an evolutionary manner. If we start building regional goods and services database and provide a standard for their construction and the sharing of information. Then the governing of these resources will develope afterwards in a hopefully democratic manner.

The consumer groups that interpret will be self funding and governing. However, information packages and advice will have to be provided to these groups, so that they can make the most of the GGSDB.

I can only anticipate the early stages of my idea. As it must be nurtured by many people, the direction it would take, I cannot predict. I think that to start the project a forum of interested people need be created. From their, the GGSB can take form.

I for one would be glad to contribute to the discussion, to the design of the GGSDB. I can also offer my techinal expertise as a Network Administrator and as an amateur sociologist.

November 1, 2003 in Corporate Social Responsibility, Empowering Consumers, Reputation Systems, User Created Content | Permalink


Well, now its three great minds that think alinke ;)

I've posted a similar idea here already: http://mysociety.blogs.com/mysociety/2003/10/brand_facts.html

So has William:

Also, Surly pointed me to a site which does something similar already, but I'm not too keen on their 'evil' bias:

There's also this one: http://www.responsibleshopper.org/

But I still think this can be done much better. What's needed is a well thought-out ranking and moderating system which can work by itself without too much 'work' involved in the long run.

Posted by: Jake at Nov 1, 2003 5:12:41 PM

http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/: Ethical Consumer, provide an excellent service for the ordinary consumer not a million miles from the above free proposals. The difference is that its not free, and people get paid to do the research.

It would be worth talking to them first to find out how hard/easy it is represent all the data fairly so that people can make their own judgements based on the facts alone, whilst still making it easy to use.

For the more hardcore who want the details http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/research/research.htm : ECRA are available.

Better ways of accessing this information would be good.

Posted by: Stephen at Nov 1, 2003 7:50:33 PM

Social justice is not an issue for business.

Posted by: Social Justice at Jan 24, 2004 11:41:41 PM