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Worldchanging Reputation Network
Jamais Cascio, 8 Mar 06

Okay, it's clear: Worldstock is not worldchanging. But the entry and the resulting reader dicussion points us to something that could be of great value, and definitely worldchanging: a way of telling each other what companies are on the up and up, and which ones aren't what they seem.

Ideally, it would be a collaborative, bottom-up website, giving people a chance to tell others about what they've experienced or discovered about putatively green/ethical/responsible companies, both good and bad -- it wouldn't be worldchanging if we just focused on the bad!. Readers who have different views could argue back with their own posts or comments, and regular contributors would be rated by readers on reliability. It would be something similar to ePinions, but for companies, and with a distinctly worldchanging focus.

Read on for more discussion of the idea.

We've covered similar ideas in the past: Ethiscore, which gives companies ratings on social responsibility, but is compiled by a small group and is subscription-only; Greener Choices, a Consumer Reports focusing on the environmental impacts of consumption; and the Corporate Fallout Detector, which would be a terrific implementation of the concept, if it wasn't just an art project. What I'd like to see is something that is built from the knowledge and research skills of its community, and where that community also keeps tabs on each other's accuracy, helping to weed out unreliable or astroturf entries.

As issues of environmental sustainability, global development, and ethical business become more and more visible, we will inevitably see companies that would otherwise have little to do with these subjects suddenly proclaiming themselves to be champions of the planet. "Greenwashing" is a wonderful term for that behavior when it comes to the environment, but the same concept applies more broadly. Sometimes, it's fairly easy to poke holes in their claims. But some organizations more easily slip under the radar. After all, a quick scan of headlines doesn't reveal anything too unpleasant, and nobody is making a huge stink about them...

Before we get ourselves spun up on the idea of seeing one built, we should ask: does something like this already exist? Please tell us in the comments -- and tell us what you think something like this should entail.

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Comments

No, there's nothing so comprehensive yet. Mainly because at the moment 'worldchanging solutions' are promoted and applied, but there's no space yet for reporting back. I think that what you are aiming at, following your mention of Greenwashing, is a two-folded approach:

- Get stories about worldchanging solutions and build discussions on top of each other's ideas. Solutions that have been applied as well as those that are desired.

- Build a community of watchdogs, who can contribute in different ways going from just scanning headlines, to monitoring products on shelves. Here's an opportunity to bring worldchanging offline.

This entail the development of a forum structure, resource collectors and the possibility to get a global overview of the activities. This is going to make people feel part of something big. Technically-speaking, you could also use some 'mash-ups', Google map APIs, Flickr's, etc.


Posted by: gillo on 8 Mar 06

A US-based site worth mentioning is BuyBlue.org. They use a dual in-house research and user-contribution model for ratings on political contributions and corporate behavior, respectively. Of course, their scope is limited only to US companies and consumption, and present a lot of explicitly partisan analysis.


Posted by: Francisco Cendejas on 8 Mar 06

This is exactly the sort of thing I was thinking about after reading your WorldStock post. I don't know of any system currently in place, but the emergence of tools like iKarma suggests there might be some interesting ones in development.


Posted by: csven on 8 Mar 06

Well, on the climate change issue which I think should be the absolute top priority "worldchanging" problem (but maybe that's just me), there's the Carbon Disclosure Project:

http://www.cdproject.net/

The Davos World Economic Forum also has a "Greenhouse Gas Register" that seems to be slowly growing:

http://www.weforum.org/ghg

The nice thing about CDP is investors are involved and listening - divestment from bad-behaving companies is probably an even stronger motivator than the threat of boycotts.


Posted by: Arthur Smith on 8 Mar 06

Isn't something like The Well a good format for discussions like you're talking about? Granted, it costs money to join, but something similar?


Posted by: Justin Anthony on 8 Mar 06

I don't know if such a resource already exists, but it would be great to use it in the following way. You download it on your mobile, your mobile has a barcode reader, when you are in the supermarket, you pass your mobile over a product, the barcode is read, the company manufacturing it is detected and checked against the "good/bad company" dataset and a beep (or color beam) is released by your mobile depending on "you can buy this product/you should boycott it".
Similar idea:
http://www.thefeaturearchives.com/101097.html

These exists something similar already?



Posted by: paolo on 9 Mar 06

TechCrunch is another site I monitor daily, and they had an article about iKarma back in October 2005. His assessment should resonate here:
"I think they may be on to something really big here, but in my humble opinion they need to embrace the ideas of open services and open data."

If we did have an open reputation system, mashups like the one Paolo suggests would be common place. iKarma says it is in their future plans. As commenters have noted on the TechCrunch article, reputation management is huge. I hope someone figures it out!


Posted by: Daniel Haran on 9 Mar 06

For more on iKarma, I posted something recently that might be of interest. There's a link to another story on the service, a comment from the CEO and mention by another commenter about another reputation system. (Link)


Posted by: csven on 9 Mar 06

I'm not sure it will work out. In order to really assess a company's sustainability, social responsability or environmental profile, you need experts, not just consumers or anonymous internauts.

The altermondialists have many such networks with data on companies and corporations, assessed by pros. I think I'd trust them more than the comments by anonymous people whose credentials aren't known.

Of course, if these internauts search the internet for expert resources, and put them in the public database which you suggest, that would be a good thing. But I still think it should be monitored though.


Posted by: Lorenzo on 9 Mar 06

And as our tech leaders develop regenerative tools and surpass what amount to wimpy green standards, greenwashing will be as passe as reaganomics and make love not bombs. Evolution continues but how much are we learning in the process?

We can move away from petrol and still be completely gross in our consumption and waste, or we can learn to make the most of every material NOW and adapt more quickly to the shifting tides.

Reputations systems are a great way to leverage mass support and build networks of trust. I would love a cooperative resource-sharing system based on the worldchanging ethos.


Posted by: evonne on 9 Mar 06

Watch StartingBloc.org. We will be launching a new global platform this Summer that you may find interesting.


Posted by: Martin Smith on 9 Mar 06

2005 Blue (http://www.2005blue.com) was my favorite company reputation site, but it seems to be done now... I hope it wasn't shut down.

They had a different system than Buy Blue that didn't factor in employee contributions, which I think skews Buy Blue's results. Also they factor in which candidates a company supporting, corporate and environmental policies, etc. to create a single rating of how liberal or conservative a company is.


Posted by: Klintron on 9 Mar 06

Let the buyer beware. Since the latest mantra of the MNC, and the business grad schools is the "triple bottom line": profit,social, and enviromental benefit as a business model for seeking opportunity and growth in markets at "the base of the pyramid", it's more important than ever to know the envirnmental and social track record of the MNC, or MNC endowed NGO. It's not uncommon to find direct links to MNC's with contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, or to MNC's with abismal environmental histories.

Start by knowing who has contracts in Iraq and Afgahnistan, and also the oil companies and their joint partners. (BP Oil is one of the largest producers of solar components in the world. Any wonder the compontents are out of reach of most consumers?)

Read labels and pay attention to who's products contain genetically modified ingredients. My understanding is that certified organic products are GMO free.

Support small sustainable agriculture.Buy local, and in season.

Examine your own footprint of energy use and waste and make good choices as a consumer. Vote with your dollar, and vote.


Posted by: invisiblecities on 9 Mar 06

I think we are launching something pretty much what you were looking for: a free social software for ethical action, where it is possible to nominate agents (corporations, institutions, political parties etc) and start a community around the agent with the aim of coaching the agent about how best to act out their values. also, if you create your profile yourself or reclaim your nominated profile you'll be able to navigate and manage your ethical reputation. Anyway, check out the description on actics.com and we would be really happy to get your input. Also if anyone is interested in testing and co-develop our beta (due in 6 weeks) mail Mikkel on mikkel@actics.com


Posted by: Nicolai Peitersen on 10 Mar 06

I think investors and job seekers would like to see a wiki focusing on corporate culture. And I'm betting some employees, former employees or academics would like to write about corporate culture. Some companies are known to have exemplary cultures, such as Toyota and Southwest airlines. Let's unearth all the other companies with great cultures! I've started a wiki on this topic (along with some other world-changing subjects) at wikiforgood.org


Posted by: Rob Berridge on 11 Mar 06



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