GoodGuide: Rewarding Companies and Informing Consumers at Point of Sale

GoodGuide Screen ShotLead, carcinogens, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, diglycerides, formaldehyde, imidazolidinyl and a slew of other largely unpronounceable ingredients are mainstays in our food and beauty products and assailants on our health. A new iPhone app and its web version are helping consumers make informed purchases at the point of sale.

GoodGuide gives consumers access to product ingredients (the good and bad ones) and their side effects, while also providing information on how socially and environmentally active the manufacturer is.  Shoppers enter a product’s name in GoodGuide and receive a combined score that reflects that product’s harmful ingredients and severity of related side effects (think rash vs. cancer). GoodGuide also shows secondary information like whether the item or its manufacturing produces toxic waster, or whether the manufacturing company has been sued for discrimination.

Dara O’Rourke, an environmental and labor policy professor at Berkley, began collecting data for GoodGuide in 2005 and launched the consumer website in September 2008. O’Rourke is not new to the practice of holding companies publicly accountable for their ingredient quality and social and environmental practices. Twelve years ago, his research and report on malignant Nike factory conditions in Vietnam led to backlash and boycotts.

GoodGuide is still perfecting its revenue stream. O’Rourke rejects advertising because of conflicting advertiser interests, but will license the company’s wealth of data to governments and retailers.

I used GoodGuide to get the skinny on my Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla milk from Blue Diamond and was impressed that this niche product was one of the 70,000 listed.

  • Overall rating 6.4
  • Health/nutrition (the element consumers are most educated in) 10
  • Environmental 4.2
  • Social 5.0

It’s not too likely that Blue Diamond’s sub-average social rating will deter me from a future purchase because its overall rating is high, it’s affordable and I like the taste.

GoodGuide achieves its primary objective of connecting customers with immediate product information. If used on a large scale, it becomes a powerful tool to rid our drug store and supermarket shelves of harmful and negligent products more expediently than the House, Senate, FDA and EPA can convene to sign a new regulation.

Historically lambasted companies might find a friend in GoodGuide. I did a quick search for Nestle–known for its infant formula debacle in Africa–expecting its Social rating to be low. Instead, I found that Neslte is now rated an 8 in this category, which will lead me to further sleuthing and potentially lift my personal boycott of the brand.

Read the full article in the New York Times.



Leave a comment
  1. Katy June 23, 2009 at 9:55 pm #

    Pretty cool post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say
    that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your posts. Any way
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you post again soon!

  2. admin June 24, 2009 at 9:26 am #

    Katy, thanks for the comment. Glad you found Cause Capitalism. The GoodGuide is a great idea and has actually worked for me (even on my niche product vanilla almond milk). I’m happy to recommend other great companies, depending on your interests.

    Have a great day!

  3. Ashleigh Baker June 27, 2009 at 2:00 pm #

    I found your blog through a link on the NYT’s GoodGuide article. Great stuff here. I looked at some of the other posts in web/tech and am going to sign up for Plus 3 Network. It sounds like a great program, I”ll let you know!

  4. admin June 29, 2009 at 11:48 am #

    Ashleigh, I’m glad you discovered Plus3 here. They have an interesting business model and I hope with you athletes and commuters like you, they can succeed in their mission.

  5. Ryan Jones September 12, 2009 at 9:49 pm #

    Excellent post on GoodGuide. Tks for that. Just added you to my blogroll!~
    Keep up the great work and lets connect across the social networks.

  6. admin September 17, 2009 at 5:24 pm #

    Ryan, thanks for your comment. I checked out m-cause. Terrific work. It’s an exciting time for business and social welfare as they realize that forces from each can be of benefit to the other. Do you run a business, consult, work on policy?

    Thanks again,

  7. LeslieS April 8, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    “GoodGuide gives consumers access to product ingredients (the good and bad ones) and their side effects, while also providing information on how socially and environmentally active the manufacturer is. ”

    I like this a lot better than simply listing calories like restaurants are starting to do everywhere. Have you noticed that? It’s pretty annoying and I don’t really find it helpful. Low/high calories do not necessarily mean healthy/unhealthy. I guess it shows that more people are starting to care somewhat though, right?

  8. Olivia Khalili April 8, 2011 at 3:46 pm #


    That’s an interesting comparison, which emphasizes Good Guide’s role in helping consumers process and evaluate information, not just access it.