HowGood – an independent research company that identifies which products are most sustainable – is taking off at an unparalleled rate of popularity, with a new round of $6 million capital raised in 2021. You may have seen the company’s rating system in use at places like Walmart, Chipotle, and the Giant Company, but this is just the beginning.
HowGood is a New York-based startup that aggregates data on product sustainability for consumers, investors, brands, and retailers. So far, HowGood’s Latis database has analyzed more than 200,000 products (adding up to more than 1 million UPC codes) for environmental, health, and trade impacts.
This database is the heart of HowGood’s mission. The data – which includes more than 33,000 ingredients, chemicals, and materials assessed – can be used to help companies improve their sustainability, to help investors choose what products to invest in, and help consumers make informed purchases. It amasses and crunches data from its own proprietary sources and from a huge range of open government and third-party firms to derive a complete score for different products. The analysis encompasses everything from ingredient sourcing to chemicals and processing, packaging, shipping, and labor practices.
Recent studies indicate that 63 percent of American consumers say that ethical issues are becoming more important when it comes to the brands they buy. More than half of all consumers say they will stop buying brands they believe are unethical. This is where HowGood steps in. Using a “Good”, “Great” and “Best” positive-only ranking system, HowGood drives forward-thinking companies to want higher rankings to drive sales.
The rankings appear on signage in more than 400 grocery stores across the United States, and also on HowGood’s website and mobile apps. The mobile app allows shoppers to scan the barcode of any item to receive its rating. With a simple, user-friendly interface, users can see the impact of any ingredient, source location, or sustainability standard. The app also displays details on environmental impact, labor risk, and animal welfare, as well as executive-level portfolio progress and each manufacturer’s unique sustainability strategies. It’s a reliable and strong one-stop mapping system based on data from 350 certifying bodies and research organizations to verify the on-the-ground conditions for every ingredient.
In essence, HowGood makes it easy for consumers to make smart decisions quickly.
“If you care about these things, but you’ve got a very busy life, how do you start to vote with your dollars and vote with your conscience and end up with products that are best for you and your family and the world on your plate?” asked CEO Alexander Gillett. “We want companies to get better. That’s why we’re a positive-only rating system because we’re trying to support companies being able to make these decisions by showing that customers will buy more of their products when they do make the right decisions.”
The company is a non-traditional start-up of sorts in that it actually began more than a decade ago when Gillett and his brother Arthur had a discussion about the dilemma surrounding sustainable food data. The pair decided that if the data was all in one place and easily accessible, it would be easier for corporations and consumers to make informed choices.
The first trial run of the rating system was in one supermarket in 2012. It was a slow burn for the next five years until the first round of venture capital arrived – investors were impressed by the research team and the fledgling database. Now, demand has soared and HowGood is using the new funding to accelerate Latis’ sustainability intelligence platform, which provides instant ingredient-level sustainability insights for consumer packaged goods, restaurants, and retailers. Funds will also be used to fuel product innovation and expansion into areas such as beauty, apparel, and cleaning products.
Today, HowGood is already the world’s largest product sustainability database. The number of consumers, investors, and companies (including five of the top 10 global consumer product companies) that use it continues to grow. By believing that the path to a more sustainable food system starts with transparency, HowGood is helping everyone better understand the story behind food products, allowing people to buy better for their families and the world.