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IU Alumnus creates Kickstarter in hopes of helping people shop ethically



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Impakt is a customizable browser extension created by IU alumnus Jonathan Hecht. The extension helps people find shopping options that match their values.  Photo illustration by Rose Bythrow Buy Photos

After last year's election IU alumnus Jonathan Hecht said he was feeling frustrated, especially by the lack of power he felt some people had. To try to address these feelings, he started a Kickstarter for a browser extension called Impakt that aims to help users shop according to their social values.  

Impakt is customizable so users can select their values, and the extension helps them shop according to them. Hecht said when a person using the browser extension starts buying something that doesn't align with their values, the user will get be alerted. 

For example, if someone values environmental sustainability, the extension would flag products from companies known not to be environmentally friendly. This extension will also show users more ethical options for a similar product.  

This extension, which is not available yet, will work for both Firefox and Google Chrome. 

Hecht said Impakt takes information that is already accessible to the public, compiling it from public data industry reports and news articles. The browser extension will work at places like Amazon as well as retailers like Best Buy, Macy's or Sephora. 

Hecht said that with Impakt, he hopes to influence businesses' social values.

“We aim to realign their incentives,” Hecht said. 

Impakt co-founder Nida Nizam said that a person's purchasing decisions can have a major effect.  

“Impakt is designed to amplify every individual's voice by helping people coordinate purchasing decisions with their values," Nizam said. "Whether it's human rights, or the environment, or health, or politics, our purchasing decisions affect power dynamics in our system in a major way.” 

This browser extension will hopefully give a voice to people without taking radical actions, Nizam said. 

“By providing full transparency on vendors, supply chains, and more, we make it easier for people to speak up without having to undertake radical actions -- all the while modifying the impact their lifestyle has on others.” said Nizam

Montes said that he thinks this web extension can be empowering. 

“You can now live your life according to your values," Montes said. 

Montes said that ethical spending has previously only been accessible to the rich or people with the information but now he said that they are now “democratizing ethical spending”. 

Montes said a story in the Guardian about the exploitation of 14 year old workers in Myanmar by H&M and an expose done by Bloomberg about how Nestle exploits small communities are the kinds of information the extension will use to code products. Montes said these examples might not be aligned with the customers' values.

Hecht said that they still have $17,000 to raise to make the extension possible, and people can now donate directly on their website. He said all Kickstarter backers should have access to the extension by March 2018, and it will be available to the public at a later date .

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