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New Chrome plug-in helps online shoppers make greener choices

You have a burning desire to save the earth but no time to make sure the things you buy are environmentally friendly.

A new plug-in software will help you be a "greener" shopper in what you add to your shopping basket.

EcoCart, which currently runs on e-commerce sites RedMart and Cold Storage Online, identifies products made from RSPO-certified palm oil.

A certification by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a non-profit group comprising palm oil producers, traders, retailers, banks and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), is a recognised and independently audited sustainability standard for the palm oil industry.

Jointly developed by global advertising agency Havas Group and Singapore-based non-profit environmental group People's Movement to Stop Haze (PMHaze), the Google Chrome plug-in was launched late last month.

It alerts shoppers when they browse everyday items made with unsustainable palm oil, and recommends a more sustainable alternative.

Palm oil is found in nearly half of all packaged goods, from chocolate and cooking oil, to detergent and cosmetics.

Experts predict the global consumption of the edible oil to quadruple to 240 million tonnes by 2050.

The high demand for palm oil is the root cause of widespread deforestation across South-east Asia, as well as the slash-and-burn culture that causes the annual transboundary haze problem in the region.

Ms Valerie Madon, chief creative officer at Havas Southeast Asia, said EcoCart crystallises the information sourced from numerous NGOs that, until recently, had been "very fragmented".

The plug-in covers more than 5,000 products across the two e-commerce platforms and the database is continually updated to include more products. However, it cannot be used in conjunction with e-commerce mobile apps.

Mr Benjamin Tay, executive director of PMHaze, said: "Online shoppers today are increasingly savvy and invested in consuming sustainably, but may not have the information or resources at hand to commit fully.

"(EcoCart) is easy to use as it educates and triggers more immediate action from people at the point of purchase."

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