With climate change and ethical issues increasingly in the headlines, concerns around social responsibility are a key part of the decision-making process for shoppers before they buy — but for many people, the lack of trustworthy sources of where a product has come from or how it has been produced can be frustrating. As a sustainability consultant working with the UN, Abbie Morris first founded Compare Ethics to address this problem by creating a consumer-facing website to rank products according to their sustainability and support the brands leading by example. Eventually, though, she realised that to create the kind of impact she wanted, she needed to redesign her offering to provide businesses with a verifiable way of proving their ethical credentials.
“We grew really quickly,” she says of the original version of the Compare Ethics site. “But the more we spoke to larger brands, we began to realise that the tech we used to check brands’ sustainability claims was actually our core product.”
Going back to the drawing board, in 2020 Compare Ethics switched to provide a product for businesses. Throughout the process, Compare Ethics joined Google for Startups to seek advice and support. “In 2019, we joined the first female founder programme, and that process was really useful,” says Abbie. “We tested lots of Google products, and we were supported by internal experts — we had experts who would help us set up new features and ways of using Google Analytics for our test pages. But it also helped with less technical issues, like having the confidence to go out and raise investment.”
Google for Startups also helped the business to implement the Impact Widget, a tool that simplifies the process of showing products’ impact on the environment and sustainability. “A big part of the process was that we were able to focus on what was important to our customers,” says Abbie. “It’s easy to be pulled around as a startup, but we’ve stayed on target.”
In October, the business published an industry report, surveying over 1,200 consumers, and found that only 20% trust brands’ claims about sustainability. But by contrast, 83% of shoppers trust sustainability claims made by a third party — a key part of Compare Ethics’ appeal. With 55 brands across multiple countries already subscribed to the service, the business is currently focused on staying up to date with new U.K. and European regulations related to “greenwashing” — the practice of misleading consumers by making unverified or vague claims. “We’re moving into a new era of standards and consumer expectations in this area,” says Abbie. “There are a lot of challenges ahead, but it’s a very exciting time.”