How tech could aid consumers to measure a brand’s environmental footprint

UK start-up Almond has developed an app for companies to showcase their sustainability credentials, while also rewarding customers for responsible purchases.

19 September 2019
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While consumer awareness of food waste, recycling and other environmental issues grows at an exponential rate, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about exactly how much impact we, as individuals, are having on our planet’s future.

As it turns out, there’s an app for that. Or, at least, there will be by the turn of the year.

Almond, a UK-based start-up, will reward its users for “lowering their negative impact” on the planet. The free app – set to launch in November – encourages consumers to buy responsible brands while helping them to understand and reduce their carbon footprint

“The app delivers this with three functions,” Oliver Bolton, Almond CEO, tells Food Spark. “Buying better, acting better and offsetting the rest.”

The buying better section of the app delivers a marketplace for purchasing goods deemed responsible. And it doesn’t stop at food and drink – Almond is also working with carbon-conscious brands across the board, with clothing, healthcare, homeware and renewable energy brands already in the frame. At the time of writing, Almond has 16 partners on board and is targeting 30 by the end of the calendar year.

“I do expect that, in the future, it will be mandatory for food companies – and all companies for that matter – to [publicise] their carbon emissions and that they’ll be penalised for X amount of waste,” he predicts.

For now, it’s no easy feat for companies seeking Almond certification. “We’ve built a badge accreditation scheme to allow brands to showcase their positive impacts,” says Bolton. “This can be anything from organic to carbon-neutral or carbon-conscious to fair trade or B Corp.

“And it’s not just a case of them telling us that. We ask for validation and evidence to unlock each badge. At the moment, a brand needs to have three badges to [go live]. That may change in the future, but for the time being, we need to capture a high enough volume to make the marketplace interesting. But we want to challenge the brands we work with to gather as many badges as possible.”

In the context of food and drink brands, the results are not surprising.

“Plant-based and vegetarian are natural winners,” explains Bolton. “Those sorts of brands are already very conscious of their carbon footprint, so that definitely helps! But, for example, being focused on local produce would also [earn a brand credit on Almond].” 

Acting better, offsetting the rest

The second part of the Almond app, 'acting better' provides users with a tool capable of calculating their own CO2 footprint.

“We partnered with WWF, and the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York. They developed a very accurate tool to help people measure [their] carbon footprint,” he says.

Almond’s chatbot questions the user on various parameters such as their energy sources and diet choices, and provides them with a score.

“We wanted to come up with a road map to lower your footprint,” explains Bolton. “It can all be tracked live within the app.”

But why would consumers suddenly be interested in an app like Almond? Carbon footprint is not a new term, after all.

“Awareness is at an all-time high,” claims Bolton. “People are realising how much impact they, as individuals, are having on the planet and they want to reduce their carbon footprint and do better. They want to make a difference. But they don’t know what to do and who to trust. And that’s all part of our project, to inform people and empower people.”

Finally, the 'offsetting the rest' function rewards positive consumption. The more economical the user, the more trees are planted on their behalf.

On average, one tree is planted for every £10 spent. Bolton emphasises, however, that brands are not required to participate in this part of the scheme. “It usually comes to 1-2% of the product’s value, so it’s not incredibly expensive for them,” he says.

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