goodbag encourages shoppers to protect the planet by making it possible for retailers to join its high-tech environmental shopping bag project online during the COVID-19 crisis

By Chris Welsch

The COVID-19 crisis has slowed retail activity across the world, but Christoph Hantschk believes something positive will emerge: more conscientious shoppers.

The cofounder of goodbag, a Vienna start-up that uses technology to encourage responsible shopping, says sales meetings used to happen face-to-face, but now his team is using video conferencing to continue adding partners. To reduce the need for face-to-face meetings, the company has developed a new platform so that stores and brands that want to participate in its project to help shoppers protect the environment can join entirely online.

“There’s a lot to learn from this crisis,” Christoph says. “It’s a great time to consider what do we really need, how do we consume, and what is sustainable.”

Goodbag motivates shoppers to protect the environment by giving rewards if they use cotton bags, instead of asking for store bags. Clients can buy a reusable cloth bag in a partner store or on goodbag’s site. Embedded in each bag is an NFC (near-field-communication) chip that connects to an app on the user’s phone. When shoppers walk into one of 1,000 participating stores in five European countries, they activate the app and connect it to the chip to show that they are in the store with the cloth bag. Clients then can use a credit to plant a tree, collect plastic waste out of the ocean or receive a shopping discount.

Behavioural economics

More than 70,000 goodbags are in use. The company also has a line of reusable bags for liquids at Heathrow airport in Britain. More than 50,000 of those bags are in use.

Goodbag is a past finalist in the European Investment Bank Institute’s annual Social Innovation Tournament. The tournament supports entrepreneurs who are making an impact on social, ethical or environmental issues.

Christoph came up with the idea for goodbag about four years ago after studying behavioural economics at the Business University of Vienna and on an exchange programme in Sydney. He was fascinated to see how sports apps — like one he was using on his runs — were so effective in incentivising behaviour and inspiring longer and more frequent exercise.

>@Goodbag
Christoph Hantschk came up with the idea for goodbag after seeing how sports apps were so effective in inspiring more exercise ©Goodbag

“We had the idea to show that each individual action can create positive change, rewarding future actions,” he says. His cofounder, Todor Lazov, created the app that rewards the clients.

Goodbag is using its app and social media channels to encourage people to shop at smaller organic food and specialty stores that are especially vulnerable during the lockdown. He cited the example of an organic and fair-trade coffee shop that developed a system where customers could pick up and pay for coffee outside the store.