Bridging the Disconnect

Connecting Good

3. Good Health and Well-Being 10. Reduced Inequalities 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action

Overview

Connecting Good is a platform that creates awareness and facilitates responsible exchanges between consumers and producers. The carbon footprint tracker adds value by providing data on carbon emissions to encourage people to lower their emissions from everyday purchases.

Author

Benji Lines

Benji Lines

School

University of Otago

University of Otago

Professor

Joe Cooper

Joe Cooper

Innovation

Spanning industries from transport to food retail, CoGo provides local businesses with badges for sustainable development. These badges include accomplishments such as carbon neutrality, responsible investment, paying the living wage, and organic products. When a consumer joins the app they are welcomed with a range of badge options to consider. Each badge reflects ‘what they value’ in terms of sustainability and a map showing the location of the company. The value tokens are the same as the badges of sustainable development that businesses join the app to achieve. Consumers see which companies are achieving the sustainable goals they value. Also, consumers are presented with a range of new companies who are nearby, and with whom they can trade goods and services.

The platform that CoGo brings to the market is one of a kind. The companies that sign up with CoGo are highly motivated to perform well in the sustainability area because it means they achieve more badges. More badges attract customers. In a similar sense, this app is perfect for the movement of consumers into the green space. By signing up, consumers have access to companies, big and small, within their surrounding area. Once they purchase from a company, they learn about the impact that the company has within the sustainability arena and can suggest areas in which they can improve within it. Too often we see companies that lack transparency. Consumers want to know more about the company that they have purchased a product from. Often voiced by Mikaila, “bridging the disconnect” seems to encapsulate CoGo’s mission nicely.

In more recent developments, CoGo has introduced a carbon emission tracker. The trackers add value to their already profitable business model. Partnering with Westpac, the carbon footprint tracker will use open banking technology to match each transaction to a specific industry. It will then use an emission factor for that industry and multiply it by each different transaction to find out the total emissions. At the end of each month, consumers can view their emissions relative to global recommendations. Emission factors can be reduced for certain businesses within specific industries. For example, Mikaila said; “the app can show me that hey, maybe this month I changed my diet to vegetarian. Here are seven vegetarian restaurants around you. And then [by] the end of the month, you can say oh, I reduced my emissions by x amount.” This hypothetical example demonstrates depending on where you eat, how the carbon tracker combines information from the app with algorithms to apply a lower emission factor. The carbon emission tracker supplements CoGo’s mission because it enables consumers to monitor their emissions and allows them to readily identify and pursue the industries that have relatively lower carbon emissions. What is better than knowing you ate environmentally friendly products this week? It’s being able to see the amount of emissions you have offset by eating vegan, and showing friends how to contribute to help improve the environment.

Bridging the Disconnect

Inspiration

After learning about the “disconnect between consumers saying they want to purchase green products, and consumers actually purchasing those products”, Mikaila wanted to join a business that challenged that disconnect. Not only is CoGo a business, but it is also a green-technology business, which in Mikaila’s opinion, is the “way of the future.”

The reason why CoGo partnered up with Westpac was to initiate a real-time carbon footprint tracker because both companies want to make a greater impact within the realm of sustainability. Westpac, in their own journey, is striving to become New Zealand’s “most sustainable bank”. With the technology and resource capability to implement the tracker, it was obvious that CoGo should partner with Westpac to enable the monitoring of carbon emissions. Through business model innovation and more recently product innovation, CoGo is attempting to address the important and complex issue of overconsumption. With the help of "world first-technology," they certainly have the ability to reach their goals.

Overall impact

Platform innovation, first and foremost, creates a network effect for producers and consumers alike. An increase in consumers joining the app drives the demand for sustainable enterprises. Likewise, if more businesses join CoGo, there is a greater supply of sustainable enterprises for consumers is explore and use. It is a business model with the potential for exponential growth. The nature of a sharing economy typical of CoGo’s software is it reduces the environmental impact associated with a traditional trading economy, where goods and services are exchanged physically between customers and employees.

Not only is the business enhanced by a platform business model, but it also strives to achieve real results on the ground. One key task of CoGo is to raise awareness and generate solutions. One barrier to a sustainable lifestyle may be accessibility. What CoGo does is show consumers that there are actually “30 vegan café’s around you”. With this knowledge, it creates the opportunity for consumers to align their consumption with values of environmental activism and sustainability. CoGo also aims to dismantle confusion within the sustainability space. For people to understand what actions are sustainable, they need to first understand what sustainability is. By partnering with Living Wage Aotearoa, an already well known certified company, rather than creating another certification, CoGo gives assurance that sustainability doesn’t have to be a complicated concept. There are organizations already out there that are making a huge difference.

The badges, which represent the value proposition of the software, are there as realistic and achievable targets for companies that put in the effort. With multiple different companies across New Zealand trying to earn their sustainability merits, the impact quickly starts to add up. Some of the more impressive environmental figures include:

- 1,631,013 kilograms of waste diverted from landfills annually.

- 5000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions offset every year (a number that is going to drastically increase with the new carbon footprint tracker).

CoGo is a prime believer that measurable impacts for sustainability should include social as well as environmental issues. While the need to account for future generations is there, CoGo maintains the stance that our current generation should have the number of resources now. That’s why CoGo has focused on the social sector, where some of the more significant social impacts include:

- 1,279,959 dollars donated to help social and environmental charities.

- 134 certified staff as being part of the living wage.

The latest innovation, the carbon footprint tracker, is only going to increase CoGo’s impact. With the opportunity to explore more green options, consumers will be able to see the real impact their consumption is having and whether it can be improved. CoGo plans to phase in a pro-tracker for businesses as well. The pro-tracker will help companies find areas in carbon emissions where they can also develop and improve.

Business benefit

While CoGo’s mission is built upon having a positive social and environmental impact, they are achieving their goal as a profitable technology-based business. CoGo donates some of its profits to help address factors beyond the corporate world. Then the remaining profits are reinvested into the business. The benefit of a platform model is that it is incredibly easy to upscale and grow the number of users. As more consumers get on board, more businesses will want to sign up for the paying profile, which will result in higher returns. All that needs to be maintained is the integrity of the software to facilitate exchanges between consumers and producers.

What will also translate into growth for CoGo is an improvement in the software. Providing real data on greenhouse gas emissions, the carbon footprint tracker will increase the users of the app and signal to investors that CoGo is successfully undertaking innovations to grow the business. With the pro-tracker soon becoming available for companies as well, the network of companies will increase. CoGo’s app also has the potential for horizontal growth as well as vertical growth. While CoGo’s operations are currently in Wellington and Auckland, they are still yet to enter into cities such as Christchurch or Tauranga. These other metropolitan centers around New Zealand could significantly benefit from having accessibility to the platform. Likewise, CoGo currently has operations in the UK and plan to enter the Australian market and eventually the American market. Horizontal expansion won’t be difficult for CoGo because again, they don’t have to pay for physical interactions and a physical premise. All they have to do is make sure, as more and more users sign up, that the software has the capacity to handle a large number of transactions.

Social and environmental benefit

CoGo is a forum that incentivizes local businesses, big and small, to make a positive difference. Their mission is literally built on the 17 sustainable development goals set out by the United Nations. The process is not discriminatory. CoGo works across 11 different sectors so any business can sign up if they want to move into the sustainability space. CoGo's business model also suits SME’s, because if companies don’t have the resources to buy the paying profile, they can receive the freemium profile and still get exposure. Through the freemium model, businesses connect and have the opportunity to collaborate across industries and/or companies they had not previously considered.

Along with inclusivity, one reason CoGo stands out from the crowd is that although they are a corporate technology company, they are deeply rooted in their mission to transform the sustainability space. There are no residual signs of corporate influence in any part of the business. CoGo, as Mikaila points out, is just “a really great platform to create awareness.” Seeing a company that has such a great understanding of the challenges of sustainable business and sustainable living is encouraging. There is no doubt that CoGo is on the right track as they continue to push the limits with their exciting software.

Sustainability has typically been a hard concept to grasp for many organizations. In addition, many companies claim to be sustainable, even if they are only contributing to the economic portion of the triple bottom line. This narrow definition of sustainability means it can be a blurred concept. CoGo, not only promotes business sustainability through its platform business model, it is a prime example for companies joining the sustainable movement. While the growth of entrepreneurs and SMEs has increased and continues to increase with the introduction of platforms like CoGo’s, there is still a need for more role models across industries to express sustainability in a practical and manageable way. With the help of the CoGo app, people can start small and work their way up.

Interview

Mikaila Ceelen, Good Impact Framework Content Manager

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Connecting Good

Connecting Good

Wellington, NZ

Business Website: https://nz.cogo.co

Year Founded: 2010

Number of Employees: 11 to 50

Connecting Good (CoGo) is a green tech start-up application that connects sustainably conscious consumers and businesses. Companies either agree to a paying profile or freemium profile, while consumers can access the app’s services free of charge. CoGo has received a lot of attention from investors recently through new developments to the app. One development that is being introduced in October 2020 is a carbon footprint tracker, which uses emission factors for different industries and multiplies the emission factor based on how much you spend.