This piece is brought to you in partnership with the Conduit Connect.
With tangible spending data, the statement “vote with your dollar” can be more than just a feel-good phrase — but the lack of reputable information has prevented the evolution of the conscious consumer.
CoGo, short for “Connecting Good,” aims to fix this. The U.K.-based startup claims to be the world’s first platform for using consumer data to “change business to change the world.”
The company’s app, which is available in the U.K. and New Zealand, helps consumers align their spending with companies addressing environmental and social issues by integrating with their banking data. That data is then funneled back to companies to inform business decisions and pinpoint untapped opportunities to have more impact, creating a data-driven feedback loop between conscious consumers and mission-driven companies.
“We’re trying to address, in economic terms, a market failure due to information asymmetry,” CoGo co-founder and CEO Ben Gleisner said in an interview with Karma. “Put it this way: the market would provide goods and services that were actually properly aligned to what I cared about, if it just knew what I cared about.”
Building Better Businesses with Data
For businesses, CoGo is a powerful statistics tool for informing sustainable business model shifts and finding profitable opportunities to do good.
Currently, there are around 2,000 businesses listed in New Zealand, and in the U.K., where CoGo has only been active since September 2018, over 22,000 business locations have been approved.
Companies listed on CoGo are certified by third-party partners. These certification partners include the Living Wage Foundation, the Sustainable Restaurant Association, Carbon Trust, Co-Operative UK and Social Enterprise UK. Certified businesses are listed automatically, but companies can also pay to customize their profiles in order to create a more tailored customer acquisition tool, similar to the business model of Yelp.
CoGo does more than just bring in new customers, though. It also ties business success to sustainability. Using data, it can inform businesses how much of their revenue stems from conscious consumers, as well as map the behavioral changes of local shoppers that are using CoGo to guide where they choose to spend.
“Put it this way: the market would provide goods and services that were actually properly aligned to what I cared about, if it just knew what I cared about.”
One of the most powerful opportunities for CoGo is that its rich data can nudge businesses to bulk up their impact strategies or even implement changes to address issues that consumers in the area note as a purchase driver.
“We’ve given that data to a business and they go, ‘Oh my, I didn’t realize that my customers and potential customers care so much about this. I’m going to go Living Wage,’” Gleisner said. “So they end up paying more to their staff, and then CoGo tells everyone who cares about Living Wage, look at the change that you’ve helped create.”
Creating Conscious Consumers
In conversation with Karma, Gleisner referred to CoGo as “a sort of Google for good business,” but it’s much more than a simple search engine. It’s also fintech for consumers to track and evaluate the ethics of their spending habits.
When consumers sign up, they choose which issues they care most about supporting with their dollar, such as companies that reduce landfill waste, sell vegan products or pay employees a living wage. As they shop, users can track what percentage of their spending is going toward their key causes, as well as access customized suggestions on how to switch their spending to increase their impact.
To this point, CoGo has offered this guidance by linking with users’ credit and debit cards. Now, in the U.K., it’s taking that one step further.
Thanks to Open Banking, an initiative to increase competition and innovation in financial services that became a requirement in the U.K. earlier this year, CoGo is now able to integrate with the entirety of a consenting consumer’s banking data, creating an untapped level of transparency in terms of conscious consumerism.
Open Banking offers a leg up from card linking, which only allows CoGo to see third-party companies that have agreed to be seen on transaction histories. With Open Banking, CoGo will be able to evaluate the past 12 months of a consumers’ purchase history with full transparency, which Gleisner tells Karma will be an impact industry first.
“Open banking, in a way, gives consumers more control of what they’re saying with their dollar,” Gleisner said. “It gives us the ability to not just help you find a good business, but to actually analyze all of your spending and see whether or not the businesses you’re buying from are actually the ones that are doing the things you say you care about.”
The CoGo app is used by 20,000 consumers in New Zealand and 15,000 in the U.K. CoGo is targeting expansion to the United States in mid-2020, with greater Europe next on its road map. Gleisner says that it’s looking for partnerships with U.S. organizations, investors and ambassadors to help with certification of businesses and growth.
“It’s really just starting in terms of this gamifying and tracking people’s historical spending and nudging them toward more ethical choices,” Gleisner said. “We want to be able to provide you with a sort of record of your impact in the world and how you could improve it.”
CoGo is a member of the Conduit Connect, a strategic partner of Karma.