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Empowering ethical consumers through a crowdsourcing sustainable app

The platform for sustainable shoppers to engage and invest in social responsible brands

Most of us, to be accurate the 82%, want to buy sustainably. The problem we face is the disinformation, as well as the unaffordable pricing. ScaleChange wants citizens to have a voice by sharing information about these companies, good or bad, and earn rewards for sustainable shopping. Even more powerful, you will be investing in a unique currency with a conscience on startup social enterprises.

We have the opportunity to interview to one of the most incredible tech platforms that consists of helping consumers gain their voice again when it comes to sustainable businesses. It not only allows people to earn rewards through the app offers but also to redeem these points for, $cale¢hange (a currency with a conscience) on selected startup social enterprises.

As Ben Miller, our interviewee says, “By informing and influencing one another, consumers can take control of their supply chain, divesting from fossil fuels and investing in socially responsible, environmentally friendly, ethically governed companies.”

We also believe that if we can use technology to help others to shop according to their values, businesses will have to adjust their practices to stay in the market. With no more preamble, enjoy this worth reading interview!

What is ScaleChange about?

ScaleChange crowdsources CSR data and rewards sustainable shopping to engage and empower consumers as global citizens.

What is the problem ScaleChange is trying to solve?

While 82% of Americans prefer to shop sustainably only 16% can do so, putting 66% into a gap that Ogilvy refers to as the Middle Green. This is a big problem caused by two smaller problems. Most importantly, it’s very challenging for consumers to inform themselves regarding the social and environmental impact of the unprecedented number of products available to them. Also, doing business with good corporate citizens tends to cost significantly more, pricing out low-income shoppers.

Could you give us an example of how someone would use ScaleChange?

Uninformed and priced out, most of us end up purchasing products and services from brands that don’t share our values, actively supporting companies that harm us as stakeholders.

It’s getting easier to find CSR information about big businesses, but to compile data on all companies around the world, crowdsourcing is the only viable option. Currently, consumers who have good or bad information on a company ineffectively share their knowledge to websites sites built for other purposes.

For example:

  • A woman walks into a bar and buys a beer. No big deal, right? Wrong. She pulls out her phone and opens the ScaleChange mobile app and earns points by promoting a sustainable bar and selecting a socially responsible pint. Suddenly, she becomes part-owner of a purpose-driven company and the social-venture startups it invests in.
  • A guy gets an email from his mom: a petition against big business for doing something shady. He shares the article to Commonstake and earns shares in the company running the petition’s website. He can then join other environmentalist stakeholders in selecting which eco-friendly entrepreneurs to finance.
  • A company wants to improve its reputation among socially conscious millennials, so it launches a cause-marketing campaign powered by ScaleChange’s sustainable-shopping rewards program. It adds its campaign online through Commonstake and obtains offline sales through ScaleChange’s mobile app.

scalechange crowdsourcing sustainable app

What are all the features available in the app (scan barcodes, share social media, purchasing, comments…)?

Addressing the information problem our social media platform engages and informs mainstream consumers by sourcing CSR data and ratings from the crowd in a highly interactive manner. Alleviating the pricing problem, our rewards program provides consumers with rebates for purchases made from sustainable companies. We’re releasing an app this month to extend the rewards to check-ins and barcode-scans. By informing and rewarding conscientious consumers, we can ensure that good company do well.

Now, let’s say a user gives negative feedback and review about a company. What will happen then?

When users post reviews of companies, whether negative or positive, we attempt to forward them to the company’s appropriate representative. Companies that have claimed their page, which is free, are automatically notified. Companies that have upgraded can respond to their reviews and contact users directly.

You are also addressed to companies and social entrepreneurs. What are the features available for these targets?

Companies can use Commonstake’s rewards program to offer a rebate on any sustainable product or service. They can also use it as a prize for lead-generation, user-submitted content and even crowdsourced consulting gigs. Companies that take advantage of any of these cause-marketing options allows corporate citizens to be recognised as such.

How can you prevent companies using ScaleChange from doing greenwashing, if they try to lead a campaign to gain reputation?

Crowdsourcing is an effective way to chip away at misleading narratives and unveil the truth collectively. Commonstake has a lot in common with Yelp and Reddit insofar as it prioritises P2P data. Companies can make all kinds of claims to fame, but the crowd is well versed in cutting through the crap, collectively informing one another and identifying lies with a vengeance. Concerning misleading posts on Commonstake, they can leave a clarifying comment, downvote it, or mark it as spam. To spread the word, users can share articles that challenge the company’s story, write an op-ed or start a campaign, petitioning the company to improve.   

How does the reward system work?

ScaleChange’s sustainable-shopping rewards program allows socially responsible companies to drive sales and promotions through incentivization, online and offline. $cale¢hange ($¢) is a unique currency with a conscience. $¢100 is worth $1 so each $cale¢hange “point” is worth 1 cent. After earning $cale¢hange, “ScaleChangers” can redeem their credits by applying their credits to purchases made with ScaleChange’s socially responsible partners.  Until redeemed, $cale¢hange points are invested into ScaleChange and increase as ScaleChange’s valuation increasing. Dividends from $cale¢hange equity are invested in startup social enterprises, which are selected by Scalechangers.

scalechange digital currency crowdsourcing sustainable investing app

It seems you have developed your own currency $¢. Is this like digital money?

For now, points can be redeemed with ScaleChange’s business allies. Until redeemed, each rebate is treated as an investment in ScaleChange, earning value as the company grows. Once we become profitable, 51% of dividends will be invested in social-venture startups selected by participants of the rewards program. However, we’re considering pivoting into a blockchain, the first cryptocurrency with a conscience, which can only be earned and redeemed with socially responsible companies.  

What is commonstake.com? How is this related to ScaleChange?

Consumers can earn rewards on Commonstake.com, ScaleChange’s signature product, in two ways: by sharing information about companies regarding corporate responsibility or by purchasing products or services from qualifying companies on Commonstake. Mobile users can also earn rewards through the ScaleChange app in two ways: by walking into participating stores and scanning barcodes belonging to participating products.

What sort of ventures will ScaleChange be looking at once you start using the dividends of the users to invest?

Dividends generated by Scalechangers’ unredeemed rewards will be invested in early-stage startups with high ratings on Commonstake. It will be the responsibility of their founder(s) to request funding, and then the requests will be vetted by our staff before being presented to the Scalechangers, who will elect the recipients. For the time being, each consumer who has a $cale¢hange balance will receive one vote. There will be three winners each quarter. The top-voted startup will receive twice as much as the runner-up. The runner-up will receive twice as much as the third investee.

crowdsourcing sustainable app scalechange

What is the role of Worldplay Ventures on the ScaleChange structure?

ScaleChange is a subsidiary of Worldplay Ventures, a California-based Benefit Corporation that accelerates social businesses. Wordplay’s “hidden” agenda is pretty in regards to ScaleChange and is pretty obvious: to generate effective PR and investment capital for fellow social entrepreneurs.   

What type of social enterprises will be able to benefit from the crowdsourcing and crowdfunding structure?

Any startup with positive social and environmental objectives baked into its mission statement would be a good candidate for startup capital from $calechange. Any company with a net-positive impact on people and the planet will benefit from discussions affection their reputation on Commonstake. From there, it can expand upon its goodwill by upgrading to a premium account, advertising or offering $cale¢hange to consumer-citizens.

How do you see technology can help to make a change in this world when it comes to more sustainable consumption and ways of doing business?

When we first started out, as the Human Union Think Tank, our mission was to kill complacency, observing that complicit apathy is the one common characteristic of all social and environmental ills. We saw that the Internet, which has facilitated movements like Occupy Wall St., is empowering individuals like never before and that democracy is at play when society bends to the “slacktivism” will of the crowd. If we can use technology to help consumers shop according to their values, businesses will adjust their practices to remain profitable.  

How do you see ScaleChange will impact those who use the platform?

We measure success by tracking the progress of users through our pipeline of engagement. The first step is the conversion of everyday consumers into conscientious stakeholders through social marketing. The second step is the conversion of conscientious stakeholders into shareholders through customer equity awarded to sustainable shoppers. The final step is the conversion of shareholders into shareholder activists through social-venture investments that they select.

What are the outcomes you would like to see from the platform?

By informing and influencing one another, consumers can take control of their supply chain, divesting from fossil fuels and investing in socially responsible, environmentally friendly, ethically governed companies. A one-star increase in a Yelp rating leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue (Harvard Business School). Commonstake aims to gamify sustainability in a similar fashion.

If you could write a message for other social entrepreneurs on a big wall, what would it say?

Be aggressive. Remember your activist roots and the fact that unlike NGOs you do not rely on donations so you can take a strong stance when it comes to your mission.

And what would be the message for the consumers?

Corporate social responsibility is not a new topic, but one of its components has recently gained a lot more attention. Climate change is the one issue that connects us all and comes with an apocalyptic deadline. The only good thing about global warming is that it is has engaged the general population with corporate citizenship like never before. Informed and engaged as a consumer-citizen you can stop global warming in its tracks and put an end to many other profit-driven problems as well.

 

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