Project Provenance

How a new project using open data will tell us a lot more about everything we buy

apples 2

Spot the difference: one of these weighs 5.4kg more than the other

Many of us try to be ethical consumers these days, but it’s not an easy task.

The horsemeat scandal has further eroded consumer confidence in brands that we thought we could trust whilst investigations have demonstrated that “Made in the UK” might actually mean, “Designed, sourced, manufactured, packaged and transported somewhere else, with a brief transit in the UK”.

Add to that a plethora of eco badges and our own uncertainties about which product is more environmentally friendly – Local pears or exotic mangoes? A table made from plastic or wood? – and the situation is pretty confused.

That’s why Project Provenance, a new company supported by the Open Data Institute, wants to use open data to reveal the truth about how our products are made.

Speaking at Cleanweb in London, Provenance founder Jessi Baker spoke of an experiment she’d done in her own high street whereby the carbon emissions embodied in one apple were as much as 5.4kg more than another.

But the project isn’t just about carbon emissions – it’s about opening up a whole host of data streams to provide more options for the internet shopper. Soon you won’t just be choosing your jumper based on colour, price and size, you’ll know the factory it was made in, the standards that exist there and who made it.    

Following the fallout from the tragic factory collapse in Bangladesh, many companies with clean records want to make such information more accessible anyway.

However, what makes Provenance different to other such footprinting schemes is that it’s voluntary for the companies involved. Taking part is about the increasingly important corporate commitment of making the supply chain more transparent – something that is also central to amee’s work.

Everyone can get involved with Project Provenance and the team welcomes all interaction. If you make something, whether big or small, tell them about your product.

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