|How we work
What we do
e-Label is an organisation working closely with a new non-profit organisation called Concerned Consumers. The goal of this collaboration is to foster sustainability and transparency in the South African food and retail industry. We are aiming to do this by providing a web-based and mobile platform for consumers, as well as civil society organisations and experts, to share important information about the life-cycle of the products available on the South African market.
Why is this important?
The life-cycle impacts of our food and retail products and their packaging reach far and wide, however, some of these impacts often occur without the consumer, and sometimes even the producer, being aware of them. Greenwashing and misleading advertising is rife, and even if it is unintentional, it can harm public perceptions around some of the more sustainable and ethical products. Furthermore, it can also result in people believing that they are making good product choices when this may not actually be the case.
How do we fit in?
The e-Label platform is trying to provide the public with more accurate information about the negative and positive impacts of the goods they buy. The aim is to give South African citizens the opportunity to make more informed choices, and in the process perpetuate a greater environmental and ethical responsibility. To facilitate this change in mindset, we aim to encourage food and goods producers, manufacturers and retailers to become more involved with the public, to be more transparent about their products and processes and to begin adopting more sustainable and ethical practices themselves.
An example of some of the questions we will be asking producers can be found here.
Products and suppliers are reviewed with the help of civil society organisations and experts acting in their own capacity, and in time the products are given a rating on our platform, helping to facilitate these informed choices. Some of the category fields in which we review products include the nature of their packaging, the carbon footprint of their life-cycle, the impact of the product on biodiversity, the standards of animal treatment, social justice issues and nutrition and health concerns. The idea is for the information gathered to be relevant and credible. Thus, we have already partnered with several civil society organizations, including Fairtrade-SA, WWF-SASSI, WWF-BWI, Project 90 by 2030, Compassion in World Farming-SA, and private experts in the field such as nutritional therapists, vets, farmers and human rights activists. We are also constantly looking for new partners, information databases and resources, and are always open to review and input from credible sources.
How do members of the public and producers get involved, and how does it work?
Members of the public as well as product producers are encouraged to get involved in the conversation, and will be able to register (free of charge, but not anonymously) to access the e-Label database of product information. Registered users can then read posts, comment, post relevant articles and videos, post questions or provide any other relevant information on the data platform about a specific product or process. The e-Label team will then continuously collate and verify this information through our network, and work to present it to the consumer in a format that is practical and user friendly.
For an example of how this works, click here to see some of our product previews.
Who is this relevant to?
The benefits of the e-Label platform are for the public, the animals and the environment, but also for the companies involved and the public perception of their goods and services. However, we are by no means trying to single out any one product or company for their social, environmental or animal rights practices, in fact quite the opposite. The e-Label platform aims to facilitate discussion around a product, a brand or a claim, both positive and negative, in order to encourage open participation and constructive criticism from the consumer and other producers, and greater transparency from the industry.
The Beta testing phase
Our website has gone live (as of 14 October 2011) and for the next few months we will be running the beta-testing phase of our platform. What this means is that we will be perfecting the website functionality and the mobile application technology, as well as developing the category content for over 2000 South African products we already have catalogued on the e-Label website. Our full time research team and an extensive volunteer base will be developing this content to get the ball rolling. However, this crucial phase also involves getting consumers involved to try out the service, the website and the app, and to help by posting comments, resources and questions about the products they buy and find interesting. This is a social media based concept, so we rely on public exposure to boost our capability and maximize the platforms potential, so if you are keen to help test this progressive service, please do not hesitate to contact us. The mobile application has already been developed for Android and iPhone, and the Blackberry and Nokia apps are on the way.
To become a beta tester or to contact us for more information, click here.
Sustainability and transparency in the food and retail industry is something that consumers want, and momentum is gathering as more and more producers and consumers become concerned about these important issues. The benefits of this movement will stretch across social, economic and environmental boundaries and we challenge everyone to get involved and be part of this important transformation. We view this as an opportunity for industry improvement and a chance for companies to become sustainable and ethical leaders, as well as a revolutionary way to help us all make more responsible product choices.