Our world is currently filled to the brim with information – both useful and otherwise. There have been numerous studies that have demonstrated the value consumers place on information.
Where was the product made? How does it compare to other products that are similar? And most recently, with the rise of climate consciousness – how sustainable is the said product?
Seeing how the internet, social media, and e-commerce have rapidly been increasing in popularity, it’s easy to see how customer review websites like yelp.com and Trustpilot are doing so well. They play a very important role in helping people research goods and services they are interested in, so they can determine carefully on where to take their business. According to Invespcro.com, around 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business. Additionally, and this is quite surprising, 88% of consumers value online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
So, it’s clear to see these review platforms are pivotal in both the reputation of businesses and how much trust consumers can place on said businesses. This is exactly what Adam and Dave attributed as their main motivation for starting their crowd-sourced sustainability review platform, Wherefrom.org. They saw a gap in the market, and they created the world’s first sustainability scoring index that can compare any company or product on a single scale.
Therefore, it was so exciting for us to interview the wonderful founders of Wherefrom last week. If you want to find out more about their exciting platform and the great heights they are planning on taking the business, read ahead (we strongly recommend this)!
What inspired you to start Wherefrom?
Adam: ‘I’ve spent my entire life buying stuff. I understand how price works. Pretty Straightforward. I understand how these review platforms work – you get consumers to trust the product, they buy, and you get good reviews. But there’s nothing in sustainability.
David came to me with the idea – so we were like, okay, cool. Let’s do it. We’ve been best friends for over 20 years, so we started researching the space. The idea wasn’t originally a review platform. The original idea was to calculate exactly how much carbon is produced or how much water is used in the process of making a product, and then getting it on the shelves where the number would be displayed on the sides of the packaging. We realised immediately that we couldn’t do it in three or six months – that’s not possible. It’s technologically impossible because of the lack of data. Platforms like that take a very, very long time to develop.
It would be great if every single product in the UK Shelves had a full lifecycle assessment, which is the golden standard. But they take like two or three years to do a full life cycle assessment, and there’s over half a million products. So, we knew it would take a very long time to get every product’s lifecycle assessed. Then, the data would rot after a year or two and you would have to do it again. So, we said – alright, f**k it.
How can we put something on the label at the point of purchase – give consumers something? That’s when we landed on the idea of Wherefrom – this crowd-sourced model powered by consumers, powered by the people who buy and touch and taste the products! They read the packets and go online and look at their sustainability reports. There is so much information out there right now. They can review the products using a single scale!”
What factors do the people use to measure the company and/ or product?
Adam: “We’ve actually asked consumers to review across various aspects of sustainability. There are factors like ingredients sourcing and packaging. On a company-wide level, there’s more generic questions specifically about the company and how transparent they are with their reporting, the initiatives they get involved with.We trademarked this thing called ‘Company for good’, which will eventually be a worthwhile trademark that shows that companies that care about people, profit and planet when we have more of a presence.
Overall, this is all about consumers and what they think. What does the consumer think about your product and how sustainable is it ? Where there is discrepancy, where there is inaccuracy in what people think, we have a whole range of tools that gives a platform for brands to go and communicate with those individuals who are wrong. The ability to correct their opinions, engage with the reviewers and effectively build their sustainability strategies with their customers”
Do you ever worry about getting sued by companies for any of the reviews?
Adam: “No, never. And I will tell you a story. I have some very good friends who built a company. They’re actually not too dissimilar to Wherefrom, but it closed down 12 months ago because they kept getting sued!
They would find extrapolated studies, guess where the ingredients were sourced from and they would work out the score for it. This would be used to award badges to product, such as whether it had low or high carbon emissions.
They were awarding these badges to loads of products. And the businesses of these products were like wait a second. You said we used tons of carbon. How would you know? Cause we don’t know. Our suppliers don’t even know. How could you with your silly studies ever know? That’s why they kept getting sued.
The beauty of what we’re doing is that we can’t get sued because we are a platform – not a publisher. We never ever state anything about any of the companies or any of the products. We don’t have an opinion.
We simply just offer a meaningful framework where consumers can review, and brands can engage. It’s that simple.”
How do you get companies to take part and engage in Wherefrom?
Adam: “The companies that are joining the platform at an aggressively fast rate are the companies that want to build their sustainability strategy with their customers. 10 years ago if you did a CSR report, they’re the coolest brand in the world. How cool is it right now? It’s the standard that every brand has to adhere to – every brand has to create some kind of sustainability report or at least a section on your website that talks about sustainability. Otherwise you’re going to be left behind.
We’re saying those who are bright, at the forefront – the real innovative companies. They want to start building their sustainability strategies with their consumers as a whole – those are the companies that are standing up and taking part.”
What is the most challenging part about being a founder and as a company?
Adam: “As a founder of a company, I never realised how much work It would be to run a team of people and to look after all the beautiful people that work for us. It takes a lot of time and energy and focus.
As a company, our challenge is scaling really fast. To really work, we need Wherefrom scores on as many products in as many countries and as many sectors as possible.
You see on the website now, there’s half a million supermarket products. We just added 150,000 restaurants and hotels. We are adding every car company, car model. We just got an office in Chicago. Scaling quickly is not an easy thing to do?”
Where does Wherefrom fit in the sustainability market right now?
Adam: “Well, we’re a startup. The main thing we need to do now is to grow our presence. When the company grows, like we believe it will, then it sits right in the centre. It sits right in the middle, tying together consumers and their experiences, and brands and companies that make or produce goods and services. It also sits in the middle of those third-party accredited certifiers – B Corps, organic certifications, and all of those wonderful companies who do amazing things in terms of accrediting people.”
As a sustainable review platform, how do you think the crowd would rate Wherefrom?
Adam: “9.9? We’re joking. No one is perfect. It’s not so intuitive for the masses to immediately understand that there is immense value in collecting crowdsourced opinions on how sustainable something is – why would they care what other people think about how sustainable something is? We live in an imperfect society – there is no perfect solution to some of these issues. I’ve mentioned that in the life cycle assessment thing – it would take a very very long time to assess every product.
We don’t have that long to do a full life cycle assessment of every product. So, we’ve come up with the best possible solution that provides guidance with a single scale. Anyone who properly drills in and tries to understand what Wherefrom is about will know that we have immense credibility. Yeah, we’re going to be the centre of the sustainability world.”
I can see that you guys plant a tree per sign up – what other sustainable policies do you have in place as a company?
Adam: “Everyone that signs a contract when they come here says they’ll be vegan.
No, we’re kidding. We don’t like to force anything. I think our culture speaks for itself – we have a culture that first shrouds individual responsibility. Everyone knows their tasks. Everyone knows why their role is important and moves the business forward. We try our best in every aspect, even with the smallest things. For example – we don’t use paper based products. We don’t even have a printer. We have recycled products, we try to use reusable materials and we always buy refurbished laptops too.”
What is your long-term vision for Wherefrom?
Adam: “Put it this way, we don’t want to sell it in three years. We don’t want to build it, sign up to those things that make money and sell it and sit on a beach. We know the world operates in this capitalist, free market system. And as long as it does, people will buy products. And we genuinely think that Wherefrom will have a big impact.
I can see at least out of all the players in the space, giving consumers a voice and giving them an easy way to find products and discover products. But secondly, it’ll bring consumers into focus. When it comes to building these companies, giving them a genuine pathway where they can talk to brands where their opinions fall on deaf ears, those brands will die. We can literally elevate their status. Look at Coca Cola, who might have a hundred million a month to spend on advertising and the smallest brand might have nothing, but if they have a great score and we have a large enough community of people that care, those people will buy that product instead of Coca Cola.
So, facilitating that at scale is of paramount importance to us.
We don't take advertising money from brands to elevate them on the platform. The scores speak for themselves.”
C Free thoughts
For an environmental consultancy focused on SMEs, it was insightful for us to interview the founders of Wherefrom - a platform whose primary drivers are the consumers. The sustainability industry is about to get more interesting with the development of platforms like Wherefrom as this will place large amounts of power with the grassroots. This is something that will definitely be able to hold businesses accountable for their impact on the planet, which is very important if we want to achieve the goals set out in COP26.
More than that, it was really great to converse with Adam, Dave, and the Wherefrom team about the future of sustainability and to be able to see the beauty in our shared vision.
If you have read on thus far, be sure to check them out and maybe even leave a review! They do plant a tree for every sign up!