Packaging reveals a lot about whether food is good for us, from how many kilojoules per serve to the possible presence of nuts. What’s not often apparent is if foods and other products, from detergents to dresses, have been manufactured in ways that are good for other people, animals and the planet.
In fact, various aspects of branding, including packaging, can hoodwink consumers into thinking they are making positive choices through vague, unsubstantiated or irrelevant wording, and official-looking but meaningless logos.
Apps that rate brands according to ethical and sustainable practices take the guesswork out of genuinely positive shopping decisions. None cover a broad spectrum of product categories, however, and those developed overseas can be unhelpful for Australian shoppers: local brands are often lacking, while others’ ratings may be misleading if, for example, an Australian business has merely licensed an international brand’s name.
I tested two apps developed locally that, between them, cover many shopping bases. Dedicated to fashion, including clothes, shoes and eyewear, Good On You rates more than 2000 brands in labour, environment and animal categories. The Choose Cruelty Free app only covers brands accredited with this animal-welfare organisation, essentially focusing on cosmetics, personal care and cleaning products.
The rudimentary Choose Cruelty Free app may have narrow parameters, but it’s certainly a good resource for avoiding products made in ways that harm animals. Good on You is more appealing, and provides excellent information about why fashion brands should be embraced or avoided for ethical and sustainability reasons.
CHOOSE CRUELTY FREE
Choose Cruelty Free app.Credit:
The unexciting interface is easy to use, with a main menu leading to companies A-Z, companies whose products are vegan, and numerous categories such as baby care and deodorant. Within each category is an alphabetical list of relevant brands with symbols advising that their products are certified palm-oil free, for example, or are vegetarian rather than vegan. It’s a strict list; for instance, David Jones cosmetics, which are rated cruelty-free by PETA, are not included.
GOOD ON YOU
Good on You app.Credit:
This user-friendly app has simple visual appeal and interactive potential, including "favourites", advice on where to shop a selected brand nearby or online, and offers from brands with high ratings. Categories and brands can be searched or browsed, with five brand rankings from "great" to "avoid". There’s generous information about what is behind each ranking, including certifications, NGO reports and Good On You’s own research, as well as regular articles about style, sustainability and ethics.
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Another app helping consumers live more ethically is the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s Sustainable Seafood Guide, which rates more than 90 types of seafood according to a traffic-light system: better, less or no. It covers common and official names, whether they are wild-caught, farmed or imported, and also links to Greenpeace’s canned-tuna guide, which ranks brands according to sustainable fishing practices.
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