VSE grad develops app to help ethically-minded consumers shop online

Some consumers want to make sustainable purchases more of a habit, but doing so online and during COVID-19 can be difficult. A recent Vancouver School of Economics graduate has created a Chrome extension, called Paper Trail, to help consumers be more intentional with their online purchases.

Burhan Qadri

Using a colour code system, the extension underlines branded products – from clothes to shoes to electronics – to reveal a company’s sustainability rating. The ratings come from a professional rating agency, the MSCI ESG rating, which analyzes the supply chain and practices of companies to determine a rating compared to other companies in the same industry.  

“Holding companies accountable is almost impossible. You feel like just one person, and that companies are just too big,” said Burhan Qadri, who graduated from the bachelor of arts program in economics earlier this year. Qadri created the extension in the downtime he found during the outset of the pandemic.  

The system uses the colours red, yellow, and green to rate the products consumers find online. Each “owner-company” is rated on a scale from CCC to AAA. It’s a letter rating that summarizes how sustainable that company is for their carbon footprint, labour standards and chemical safety. The greener the colour, the more sustainable the brand. Users can then hover over the colour to see the exact rating as well as more information about the owner-company.  

“By using the extension, people can unravel the complicated big web of who owns what and make shopping decisions with their money that are in line with their values,” Qadri said.  

You can download the extension here.