Can Amazon Customers Shop Responsibly? This startup believes so.

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May 27, 2022

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Can Amazon Customers Shop Responsibly? This startup believes so.

Finch, which was founded in the early days of the epidemic, aims to assist online buyers in making more sustainable choices, beginning with America's largest e-commerce site.

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The browser addon gives environmental and ethical evaluations for popular Amazon items, weighing everything from climate footprint to human effect. Lizzie Horvitz, the platform's founder, said she was motivated to establish it because she noticed more friends and family asking for information on the ecological and social credentials of the things they buy on a daily basis.

"I felt that the internet had a bunch of scholarly papers based on genuine facts and research, but they weren't accessible for regular people to read," she explained. On the other hand, prominent lifestyle blogs frequently market items as "eco-friendly" or "all-natural," providing scant proof. Horvitz's Finch, which began as a newsletter, attempted to fill the gap between scientific research and practical guidance.

Horvitz, a former member of Unilever's sustainability business, is well-versed in consumer goods and achieving environmental advancements in their supply chains. She has witnessed an increase in interest in people and the environment, even among buyers who prefer convenience.

During the epidemic, buyers were mostly confined to their homes, purchasing online from sites such as Amazon.

"We know that consumers utilizing Amazon have a lot of environmental and social difficulties," she added, alluding to the company's logistical carbon impact. But, with 197 million Amazon customers, she feels it is pointless to expect them to abandon the site or modify their behavior. She claims that most people "[believe] in climate change, [want] to do something about it, but [don't] have more than five to seven minutes to investigate it." "We're attempting to reach out to those individuals."

Finch's mission is to assist Amazon consumers in making better informed purchasing decisions. When a customer shops on the site, the plug-in, which is located in the browser's toolbar, shows automated popups. It provides sustainable alternatives to the options they are considering, taking into consideration water consumption, waste production, raw materials, and the influence on biodiversity. "We have 85 graded categories, including mattresses, body wash, detergent, and linens," Horvitz explained. Ratings are based on data gathered from over 200,000 sources.

In essence, Finch searches the "public domain and the internet for whatever we can uncover on these products," including certifications from B Corp, the Forest Stewardship Council, and others, as well as lifecycle studies of their ingredients, according to Horvitz. The company's sustainability data scientist has a PhD in green chemistry, and Finch has developed an AI and machine-learning-driven framework for assessing items on a scale of one to ten, with anything above 6.5 being good.

Finch developed a browser extension rather than an app because "it's downloaded once and it's incredibly persistent," according to Horvitz. "Every time someone goes on Amazon, Finch appears without them having to open an app or do anything unusual," similar to Honey, an application that gathers and evaluates discount coupons at checkout. The format inspired Horvitz, and Honey's co-founder is now an investor in the firm.

Horvitz hopes to expand Finch beyond Amazon to include multi-category retailers such as Walmart, Target, and Bed, Bath & Beyond, as well as niche boutiques. The business will also look into other product categories and may potentially sell its data to stores to aid with planning and selection.

"Finch is really the lever that offers customers the transparency that they need," Horvitz said. "It also helps firms to see where their footprint is, how they match up against other companies, and how consumers are actually thinking about this problem."

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