Imagine being able to learn the human rights record of a company simply by scanning the barcode of one of their products with your smartphone. Or imagine an app that ensures that every time you dine out a hungry person eats dinner, too. Or what if every mile you walked or jogged generated money for your favorite charity?
You can do all of these things and more thanks to a growing list of socially conscious apps that are leveraging the mobile platform, empowering everyday people with the ability to change the world from the comfort of their home screen.
Many of these socially conscious apps lack the fit and feel many people have come to expect, and a quick read of user reviews reveals that reliability, accuracy and user interfaces are all areas of opportunity for developers with an eye on helping those in need.
That said, the following are five socially conscious apps that are gathering momentum and a loyal user base as they utilize mobile technology to help others, hold the marketplace accountable and find ways to convert idle time into productive volunteer work.
Buycott allows you to purchase products that share your values, and avoid those that don’t. With Buycott, you can scan the barcode of a product and learn which company manufactures it, and which company owns that company, and so on! You start by joining a campaign, and Buycott will help ensure that the products you buy fit the value profile of that campaign. Buycott also allows you to communicate with campaign organizers.
Tango Tab offers you restaurant discounts, and when you eat out, Tango Tab donates a meal to a local food bank. So when you eat, a hungry person eats. It’s a win-win. You can search for restaurants by zip code or restaurant name, and receive results by proximity in either list form or on a map. You can also view your “impact score” and share it on Twitter and Facebook.
Shop Ethical (Australia)
Shop Ethical gives you the environmental and social record of companies that manufacture the products you buy. Company ratings are based on over 30 sources, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Free2Work, etc., and their database is updated regularly. Users have access to over 4,000 products, and Shop Ethical allows purchasing power to be leveraged as either a reward or penalty toward companies based on their business practices. User reviews indicate people feel a strong sense of empowerment using the app, and that it brings a whole new dimension to their weekly shopping..
Good Guide (U.S.)
Good Guide uses the barcode-reading ability of your smartphone to provide you with four scores for each company: Health, Environment, Society and Overall. The Good Guide database contains over 170,000 products, including food, personal care, household cleaners, baby food and more. Users receive detailed information on the health, environmental and social performance of the companies behind the brands they buy.
The Extraordinaires has pioneered the phrase “micro-volunteering”, whereby uses can donate time while waiting for a bus, in line at the DMV, anytime they have a few minutes to spare. Users can help nonprofits by tagging photos, mapping locations, rating tweets and much more, just by using time that would otherwise be wasted.
If you’ve been looking for ways to make a difference or to make a better informed buying decision, these apps can certainly help you get started. They assume users don’t have a lot of free time, and allow you to build up some serious karma points by just moving through the day as you normally would.
Take one for a test drive and let us know what you think in the comments below.