What if you could see how strong a retailer is in terms of social and environmental responsibility before you decide to purchase from them? Now you can, with Raleigh-based startup ImpactKarma’s free Chrome plugin to help you as you shop online. And as of last week, you can now visit ImpactKarma’s new “sustainable marketplace” that empowers consumers to find brands that share their values.
The idea for ImpactKarma came to Co-Founder Kedar Karkare during the Global Climate Week last fall.
“I was reading a lot of the news and felt a little bit of frustration or despair, I suppose, with the whole climate situation,” Karkare said. “I think what I ultimately realized upon a bit of self-reflection is that I—and after some validation, a lot of my friends and colleagues—our generation tends to think of ourselves as conscious consumers or conscious individuals when it comes to climate and society. But it’s just really difficult to actually measure the impact of your decisions.”
Karkare, a scientist by training with a PhD in Biology, consulted for life science and healthcare startups before now running the early stage healthcare startup investment firm Lawala Capital in Houston. Karkare recruited his father Jayant Khadilkar, with his background in analytics technology and experiences in senior roles at leading companies like Weather Predict (where he was CEO), to come on board as an ImpactKarma Co-Founder and base the startup in Raleigh.
“The reason we started this company is that I think more and more people are becoming aware of the impact that companies have on the world,” Karkare said. “And they’re also becoming aware of what’s called ‘greenwashing,’ where companies basically just advertise one little thing they’re doing for sustainability when on the whole, they’re not actually a very ethical, sustainable company.”
The ImpactKarma Google Chrome extension aggregates data from a variety of trustworthy sources that rate companies all in one place in a way to seamlessly aid your online shopping experience. The startup hopes to foster an “impact economy,” where consumers can quantify their own impact via their purchases—earning a higher ‘impact credit’ score if they purchase more sustainable products from ethical companies.
“That’s what we ultimately want to create,” Khadilkar said. “The basic foundation for that is getting enough conscious consumers together, form a community, and then help that community go to appropriate businesses and help businesses find the right audience.”
This type of “impact credit” can create a structure where consumers can earn a reward directly tied to the real-world impact of their purchases, Karkare said.
“They can see exactly what’s happening, whether it’s minimizing pollution or supporting workers in another country,” Karkare said. “So (we’re) just trying to create incentives for everyone to create an impact through the economy.”
Having launched ImpactKarma’s first plugin product in January, the startup operates under an affiliate marketing business model, receiving commissions from online retailers like Amazon. The next step was last week’s release of the marketplace, a content hub that provides detailed information about sustainable brands.
Covid-19 is a very tough situation, no matter what business you’re in, Khadilkar said. But the father-son duo are optimistic that while people are staying home, they will shop online more often and can now use ImpactKarma’s plugin to help make sure they’re spending their money on impactful companies.
Adds Karkare, “I think, in one sense, the current situation—despite how horrible it is—I think it can provide a spark of sorts for consumers to really take a second look at the types of companies and institutions that they support. And hopefully, we can be a way to help them do that.”
(If you’d like to contact ImpactKarma directly, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.)