How Giki is helping everyone take carbon footprints personally

  • The Giki app helps users scan retail products and see at a glance how sustainable they are.
  • Giki’s website also provides carbon calculators and tools for individuals, companies and groups to reduce their carbon footprint.
  • As a B-Corp and social enterprise, the company ‘walks the talk’ too, boasting a negative carbon footprint and employee policies that encourage no-flying and plant-based diets.
  • The husband-and-wife co-founders’ ambition is to help individuals to link their actions with big sustainability initiatives, like COP26 and the UK Government’s Ten Point Plan.

With people becoming increasingly more literate about sustainability and the range of ethical products and eco-labelling growing ever wider, conscientious consumers are likely to face even more shopping confusion in future. This is why a new generation of digital platforms has emerged to cater for these time-pressed, information-seekers that aims to help shoppers compare the sustainability credentials of different products.

One of the most popular is the Giki Zero app. Launched in 2018 by Giki, it allows users to scan the barcodes of any supermarket product using their smartphone to see if it qualifies for any of Giki Zero’s 15 sustainability badges, which cover everything from animal testing to chemicals of concern – including a ‘hero product’ badge for those that are the most sustainable and healthy.

Giki Zero works by pulling in and analysing huge amounts of data and research findings on each product and activity, using complex modelling to align the different metrics with their simplified badge system. It began life as a simple spreadsheet by the company’s husband-and-wife founders, James and Jo Hand, when they were trying to calculate their own carbon footprint.

“The spreadsheet got larger and larger and larger, until it was ready to be a prototype for Giki Zero,” Jo, a former executive at Carbon Disclosure Project, told Metro. ‘‘We wanted to help people connect daily decisions to their environmental impacts so everyone can make more informed, more sustainable choices. This decade is crucial in turning things around and slashing global emissions.”

The couple claims that Giki Zero has helped 80% of its users change their consumption habits and make more sustainable choices. And with the recent creation of Giki Zero Pro, they aim to do the same for companies, community groups and other organisations, with a sustainability programme that encourages employees and participants to consider their carbon footprint through team goals, competition and information-sharing.

While the whole mission of Giki is to encourage more people to live sustainably, the company makes sure it walks the talk too. From a two-person start-up, it has become a B-Corp and registered social enterprise employing ten people working remotely around the UK, who enjoy climate-friendly perks and incentives, such as additional holiday time for activism or longer alternatives to plane travel and no food on expenses unless it’s vegan or vegetarian. It’s thanks also to an advisory board of experts and academics, as well as a culture and commitment to constantly revising and improving their internal practices through consultation with wider stakeholders, that Giki can claim to have achieved a net carbon footprint of minus two tons.

“It still shocks many people that [individuals] need to have two-and-a-half-tonne carbon footprints by 2030 when the UK average is around nine,” James, a former head of ESG for an investment bank, tells Business Leader News. “This can sound like a daunting target to hit but it motivates us to keep going. Ten per cent of the population account for the majority of carbon emissions, so need to tackle these personal footprints.”

What the couple are passionate about is helping people to connect with the lofty targets of big initiatives like COP26 and the UK Government’s Ten Point Plan and show them what they can do now in their daily lives to help meet them. A key part of that, they learnt through initial testing of the Giki Zero app, is the importance of making people feel good in order to motivate them to make changes.The information they provided needed to be comprehensive but also friendly, positive and personal to be effective – much as behavioural economists have recently described in self-validation theory when examining the effects of emotions on consumer interactions.

With more and more ethical consumers relying on digital sources such as Giki to inform their consumer and lifestyle choices, it’s becoming ever more important for sustainably minded companies to be transparent with their data, share their sustainability credentials and make sure they engage with and are included on these platforms. Eventually, digital platforms will offer the potential for any citizen with access to the internet to curate a full life cycle account of a business’s raw materials, labour conditions, processes and waste.

Already, blockchain technology is revolutionizing transparency and traceability, helping create a tamper-proof, digital record of things such as conflict minerals, EV components and GHGs (despite blockchain’s own problems with energy consumption and associated emissions). How would consumer trust in your business fare if the Global Goals’ impacts of your entire value chain were subject to such full disclosure and public scrutiny?

Additional research by Dr Jennifer Tyreehageman; photo courtesy of