Idea: Sustainability scoring on retail goods

08 Aug

Can some mathematical/economic geniuses out there come up with an algorithm to calculate the sustainability score of every product sold on the market? One could start with categories of products generally recognized to have least intrinsic value. It could include measures of environmental sustainability such as:

  • energy use in manufacturing, distribution, and promotion
  • proportion of renewable to non-renewable resources used in manufacture
  • proportion of substance to packaging
  • recyclability/compostability of packaging and product
  • other environmental impacts of manufacture, distribution, and discard
  • longevity as a useful item, multiple uses

As some of these figures would change depending on the retail location, the score could be automatically adjusted in each retailer’s system in pricing. The labels on shelves would include a score, out of twenty, for example, with a margin of error. Scores could be adjusted as manufacturers and distributors changes products and practices in response to social pressure. Individuals with no vested interest the success or failure of individual products could also influence scores they believed to be inaccurate.

Another measure of social sustainability could include considerations such as:

  • social costs and benefits of manufacture at source
  • distribution of costs and profits
  • social, psychological, and health costs and benefits of owning and using item

In this day of easy access to information and fast  communication, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to take a stab at this. Think of the competition for good scores between companies selling competing products, and of retailers to carry products with better scores. Think of any product in any store, anything you have bought or thought about buying–how would they compare? Low quality products could just die on the proverbial vine…

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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Economics, Ethics, Ideas


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