One of the most common refrains I hear from would-be conscious consumers is that they simply don't know where to start. The terminology of fair trade or organic or eco-friendly or ethical can be confusing, and the inaccessibility of information prohibits more consumers from understanding where their purchases come from. Over the last few years of my own journey to be a more conscious consumer, I have spent countless hours researching, conducting due diligence, and vetting my consumption habits, especially for clothing. At times, it has been immensely frustrating to first find the information, and then truly understand how my purchase is having an impact.
A new tool is here to help with clarifying terms, increasing accessibility of information, and connecting consumers with producers: the Fair TRACE TOOL™. Developed by fair trade fashion company INDIGENOUS with the help of social brand consultancy Worldways Social Marketing, the Fair TRACE TOOL™ promotes fair trade and global supply chain transparency.
Check out the promotional video below.
Ideation of the TRACE TOOL™
INDIGENOUS initially developed the idea for the Fair TRACE TOOL™ and received early funding support from RSF Social Finance, a nonprofit financial services organization that provides capital to nonprofit and for-profit social enterprises addressing complex social issues. From there, INDIGENOUS partnered with Worldways to craft the branding and user-centered interface for the tool.
Why the Tool Matters
Recent market research reports indicate that there are 2.5 billion conscious or "aspirational" consumers worldwide across all generations and cultures. Aspirational consumers are those who love shopping, want to consume responsibly, and develop relationships of trust with brands to act in the best interests of society.  Yet as Worldways explains, while the majority (80%) of aspirational and other consumers want to make more socially conscious purchases, less than 10% actually do. The reasons for this disparity are the same as what I have experienced: a lack of information, not knowing where to start, and lack of emotional connection with how the purchase will positively impact the fair trade artisan or producer. 
The tool will not only encourage consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions, but also will enable other fair trade organizations to use this cutting-edge technology. Since most fair trade organizations are relatively small and strapped for funding, they are unable to adequately share the stories of impact that consumers want. This technology will be available to these organizations at a low cost or free, and can be easily customized for the organizations' use.
How the Fair TRACE TOOL™ Works
The Fair TRACE TOOL™ is an interactive social return on investment tool that utilizes simple QR scanning technology to connect consumers with the story of how their purchases were made. Using a smart phone to scan the code for an item – let's say a garment – the consumer can instantly see the life cycle assessment of that garment in terms of its Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS), low-impact dye, fair trade certification, and social return on investment (SROI). The tool can also share the personal stories of people and communities who made the products, bringing transparency and awareness to how global fair trade supply chains operate. They have also partnered with other supply chain transparency tools such as SourceMap to aggregate and share data on products' life cycles and supply chains.
Launching the Fair TRACE TOOL™
INDIGENOUS and Worldways are currently running an Indiegogo campaign to crowdsource the remaining funding needed to launch the Fair TRACE TOOL™. Aptly created in Fair Trade Month (October), they are hoping to raise $30,000 toward the launch and dissemination of the tool to start-up and small fair trade organizations. The rewards for donating to the campaign range from a personalized thank you ($10) to an INDIGENOUS wrap sweater plus 40% off coupon to the store for a year ($250) to an all expenses paid trip to Machu Pichu in Peru to meet the artisans who make INDIGENOUS clothing ($10,000).
I plan to contribute to this campaign to get this interactive, much-needed tool off the ground and into the hands of other fair trade organizations working to tell the stories of impact on producers and their communities around the world.
You can learn more about the Indiegogo campaign and the tool here. Would you use this tool? What information matters most to you (fair trade, artisan-made, social return on investment, etc.)?
All images courtesy of the INDIGENOUS and Worldways Indiegogo campaign.
 CSR Wire Press Release: "From Obligation to Desire: 2.5 Billion Aspirational Consumers Mark Shift in Sustainable Consumption."
 Worldways Social Marketing statistics.