The 21st-century receipt
Service design, UX design, UI design, User research
Conor Mc Donald Heffernan, Benedetta Locatelli
Royal College of Art,
Aethos is the service to issue the 21st century receipt to get to know the real values behind your possessions. It’s based on the simple idea that we should easily be able to understand how the products we buy have impacted people and planet.
Driven by the younger generations, consumer priorities have massively shifted. They have challenged norms and driven changes that have led to the emergence of new models like social entrepreneurship. But the way they shop tells a different story. Why is it that there is this rift between increasingly conscientious consumers' values with the actions of the businesses most of us shop from? We took on this challenge because our generation cares about how the money we spend impacts the world around us. Yet we realised we all still shopped on Amazon and none of us really knew how our individual purchasing decisions were affecting people and planet.
What is Aethos?
Do you know where your clothes come from? What if you found out they were made in an unethical or unsustainable way? Would you still have bought them? The gap between our values and the purchases we make is becoming wider. This is why we created Aethos: the service to issue the 21st century receipt. It combines a fully automated platform that enables the receipt to be issued, with a hybrid model that facilitates a supply chain verification process.On the one hand Aethos is an engine for transparency that empowers conscious choices by revealing the real story behind products. On the other it’s a megaphone for people to promote transparent brands and hold opaque ones to account through our #knowyouraethos social media movement. We’ll deep dive into the receipt first, and then we’ll look at Aethos verification.
Discover the 21st-century receipt
We are not the first group of people to tackle transparency, so we felt it was very important for us to look closely at the assets already in play and re-envision a better version.Receipts are still an integral part of the retail experience. Ours works as a proof of conscience, displaying the information that matters most to consumers about their products. It comes in paper form or email form, linked to an interactive web app version that brings to life the stories of the producers and places that created the product.A big part of the power of the Aethos receipt is its ability to empower ethical fashion brands and hold others to account. Sharing the receipt of a transparent product displays the brand's name and a confirmation that the clothes are exploitation free while opaque brands are prompted to make their product journeys transparent.
Understanding the verification engine
Aethos verification enables brands to prove their supply chain claims. It relies on blockchain combined with physical technology to track a product’s journey from farm to shelf. This location data is cross-referenced by us with existing databases and certifications standards. Our approach is to use existing trails to legitimise and authenticate supply chains rather than add another level of certification.Our tracking process uses unique molecular tracers that enable us to physically verify a material’s point of origin, paired with NFC tags that function as a digital marker. These are scanned along the production journey and relayed to our Blockchain based app. This secured digital ledger registers the tag ID and location data of the smartphone when it’s read. By combining proof of location underpinned by a decentralised system, with the work of existing verification bodies, we can create real transparency in establishing whether products are truly exploitation free.
Our theory of change
Our theory of change foresees that with the creation of the 21st-century receipt, we can impact more brands to be fully transparent with their supply chains and eradicate greenwashing strategies. The social media movement will empower people to hold businesses to account and hold themselves to account, to establish a future where our purchases are truly driven by our values. Sharing information about the places and stories of the people behind products, while also bringing to attention relevant political debates empowers consumers to learn and educate themselves, giving rise to future decisions that are more informed and conscientious. Our long-term vision is that the journey of every single product on the market becomes transparent, as consumers progressively stop buying from brands that they know are not. Please watch the video below if you are interested in a more complete run-through of how Aethos can impact the world.
January-July 2021, London