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Provenance, a sustainability marketing tech outfit based in London, has announced the closure of a $5 million investment round. Led by Working Capital Innovation Fund and NordicEye, other participants included musician Peter Gabriel, The Brandtech group, and Digital Currency Group. The investment will be used to continue software development of Provenance’s flagship e-commerce platform that confirms companies’ sustainability claims at the point of sale. Alongside, wider brand marketing and consumer outreach will be undertaken.
The platform actively audits commercial claims. Being net-zero, offering sustainable packaging, ensuring fair working conditions, and even being female-owned are all verified. The aim of the platform is to marry conscious consumers with brands that fit their ethics and ethos, without shoppers having to do the research themselves. The ultimate aim is to eradicate greenwashing and support considered purchasing.
Leading by example
Provenance is female-founded by Jessi Baker; she started the company in a bid to cut through the fog of eco claims that many big and even smaller brands make. It comes as four out of five people claim to be reimagining their shopping habits, with sustainability issues causing the pivot. This shows promise but highlights another problem: that 53 percent of people say they can’t spot greenwashing when presented with it. This is where Provence aims to fill in knowledge gaps.
“We are fighting greenwash with transparency tech, and helping brands unlock commercial value from their positive social and environmental impact,” Baker said in a statement. “This [new] funding will help us grow our team and product to empower 1 billion citizens to choose products that match their values.”
Facilitating widespread change
Both consumers and brands are designed to benefit from the Provenance platform. Consumers enjoy easy shopping, safe in the knowledge that any green claims have been independently verified, with said verification published on the platform. Evidence is tied to each brand’s ‘Proof Points’, which are clearly displayed.
Meanwhile, brands gain access to a bank of committed ethical consumers, thereby expanding their sales base and garnering new fans. Provenance has reported a 27 percent conversion increase for brands and a 2.8 times increase in engagement. The platform represents a win for both, which is why investors were impressed with the model.
“Shoppers are increasingly voting with their wallets for the world they want to see. But they’re also wary of greenwashing, and brands that are making genuine progress on sustainability are struggling to win the deserved commercial returns on their ESG initiatives,” Christian Tarp, partner and CIO at co-lead investor Nordic Eye said in a statement. “This scalable solution is helping brands increase engagement, conversion and trust in today’s key battleground of e-commerce.”
Provenance is active in 18 markets so far. Europe, North America and APAC represent initial launch locations. Within the last year, the platform has cited consumer base growth that has tripled the number of live users. Large brands participating include Unilever, Fonterra, Douglas and Cult Beauty. In 2021, the startup won the ‘Green Retail’ award at the Douglas ‘Beauty Futures’ pitch competition, beating out 196 other companies.
Pushing back against illegitimate eco claims
Despite the majority of consumers not being able to identify greenwashing, there is a widespread desire to see the practice eradicated. In January this year, the U.K. revealed it will be cracking down on brands found to be breaking consumer protection law. Any companies found guilty of misleading claims will be liable for the costs to revise advertising campaigns and could face legal action, under the new Green Claims Code.
Earlier this month, Changing Markets Foundation took its campaign to end greenwashing one step further, by protesting outside London Fashion Week. Launching a website alongside, the organisation is seeking to shine a light on greenwashing in fashion, with major offenders hung out to dry via its ‘virtual launderette’.
Lead photo of CEO and founder Jessi Baker. All photos by Provenance.