Consumer Disclosure – an interview with Karolina Gorna, Arnav Khanna and Anshu Kumar Jain
“During the hack weekend, my team and I worked on the implementation of a sustainability score to evaluate the sustainability of most of the commerce products. We proposed a model, and at the wake of the Collabathon Earth Day Dialogues, we wanted to share it more widely with companies, politicians and industry. To reach this goal, we have been discussing the project with the Hyperledger Foundation and many market leading companies, to test and improve it,” says Karolina Gorna.
We speak about the teamwork of Karolina Gorna, Arnav Khanna and Anshu Kumar Jain in the Consumer Disclosure Working Group at the Open Climate Collabathon.
The Open Climate Collabathon, a new form of event based on a principle of radical collaboration and crowd-development that connects worldwide universities, startups, civic tech groups and youth to contribute to the advancement of Open Source technology for a collectively owned global climate accounting system.
This interview is part of an ongoing "Collabathon Interview Series" and was first published at "proofing future, bridging people + ideas" in November 2020.
Karolina Gorna 🔗 is the Head of Paris Department at KRYPTOSPHERE, the first French association specialized in Blockchain and new technologies. She has been the Local Lead of the NASA International Space Apps Challenge in Paris for the 2020 edition. She currently studies engineering and computer science at Institut Polytechnique de Paris, France. Karolina Gorna is part of the Open Climate Collabathon since November 2019 as a research volunteer.
Arnav Khanna 🔗 is a high school student based out of the Bay Area with a technical background. He is looking for ways that he can use technology to leave a positive impact on the world. Arnav has been part of the Collabathon since the Earth Day Dialogues 2020 and has used it as a way to learn more about the applications of computer science while still making a positive impact.
Anshu Kumar Jain 🔗 has been a technology entrepreneur and an advisor to enterprises wishing to tranform operations and business models through technology. Most recently he was working as a Senior Manager for MHP Consulting UK Ltd., a Porsche Company, responsible for growing the UK consulting portfolio. Presently, he is working on an early stage start up. He was first inspired by the work of the Open Climate Collabathon in April 2020. Since then he has worked in a product envisioning capacity for the consumer disclosure workstream.
Sebastian Klemm: Why do you participate in the Open Climate Collabathon?
Karolina Gorna: In November 2019, along with my teammates from KRYPTOSPHERE, we have been invited to participate to the physical edition of the Collabathon at HEC. Then, during the hack weekend, I met a team of wonderful people based not only in Paris, but in different cities around the world through a collective work on the Consumer Disclosure prompt. When I saw the possible impact this project could have, I decided to come back during the Earth Day Dialogues 2020, and then met a wider panel of enthusiastic people ready to deepen the work proposed in November.
Anshu Kumar Jain: The reasons for my participation are that I am inspired by the aim of the Collabathon to organise a collective effort to solve a complex and time-critical climate problem facing each of us.
The open nature of sharing knowledge and efforts has allowed me to learn about the problem and has structured the different areas of solution well. This allows someone like me, who has little previous experience in the particular field of climate sciences, to contribute with my diverse industry experience.
I appreciate the wide-ranging expertise of the people who volunteer and work alongside to create an overall solution that is greater than our individual expertise allows.
Arnav Khanna: I originally joined the Collabathon as a way to understand the real impacts of computer science. I have a diverse technical background, but was looking for ways in which computer science could impact the world. As a high school student, I had only seen computer science in classroom-based settings, and wanted to see the full extent of technology. And I really got to see this at the Collabathon, watching discussions between people who had used software to address environmental concerns. I found the project’s work engaging and decided to continue with it past the Collabathon.
Sebastian Klemm: The Open Climate Collabathon is a new form of event – based on a principle of Radical Collaboration – that connects worldwide universities, startups, civic tech groups and youth to contribute to the advancement of Open Source technology for a collectively owned global climate accounting system. How did you find each other as a team?
Karolina Gorna: Complementary. The strength of a team is to use the skills of each member to make the best of the collaboration. On the one hand, Anshu has a huge experience and a capacity of analysis that are very useful to target the right questions. On the other hand, Arnav is a dynamic future entrepreneur who puts of lot of energy to push the project further. I met both of them during the Earth Day Dialogues 2020.
Anshu Kumar Jain: Indeed, we met each other for the first time at the online forums for the Earth Day event in April 2020. Our interests and our work in the past kind of naturally led us to join forces more and more in the same forums. After the conclusion of the Earth Day event, we continued to exchange and organised the Consumer Disclosure prompt meeting a few times a week for the following four months.
Arnav Khanna: I met Anshu during the Earth Day event and Karolina shortly after when calls specifically focused on consumer disclosure were organized. Karolina was involved before Anshu and me and had more experience with the prompt. Since meeting them, I have come to see them both as not only my peers in consumer disclosure, but as friends and mentors.
Sebastian Klemm: The Open Climate Collabathon offers many ways to participate and getting involved: How did you evolve your collaboration within the Collabathon’s virtual environment comprised of Discord channels, CoMakery, the Collabathon Wiki and GitHub?
Karolina Gorna: Discord was very useful during the time of the Collabathon Development Sprint throughout April 2020, to be in contact with other people working on the same prompt as us. Then we uploaded the proof of concept to CoMakery and GitHub. Interesting resources are also available in the Collabathon Wiki, which describes the structure of the discussions and projects in detail.
Anshu Kumar Jain: For the first three months I mainly used the Collabathon Wiki as the centre of work – meeting agenda, minutes, summarising the past work – and recorded the contributions of various sub-interests within the group to see an interest emerge.
As we started to work on specific initiatives we decided to publish our effort on Consumer Disclosure on Github. Arnav and Jacob Zwang both helped set up GitHub and translate my rough ideas into this GitHub project. This was really cool as I had no direct experience with it.
Arnav Khanna: The Collabathon Discord channels have been the most useful tool in keeping the team posted and involving team members in consumer disclosure. We keep the project updated on the Collabathon Wiki and the Github which have both been useful tools in helping people understand the goals of the project. Because of the variety of people participating in the event, the virtual environment has been instrumental in bringing everyone together and keeping them on the same page.
Click here to go to the Collabathon Consumer Disclosure Working Group 2020 project reckoner page.
Sebastian Klemm: Within the ecosystem of the Collabathon you have been engaging in a working group on “Consumer Disclosure”: What have you been co-developing so far?
Karolina Gorna: During the hack weekend, my team and I worked on the implementation of a sustainability score to evaluate the sustainability of most of the commerce products. This concept is similar to the NutriScore used in the food industry however the challenge was to define and quantify sustainability itself. We proposed a model, and at the wake of the Collabathon Earth Day Dialogues in April 2020, we wanted to share it more widely with companies, politicians and industry. To reach this goal, we have been discussing the project with the Hyperledger Foundation and many market leading companies, to test and improve it.
Anshu Kumar Jain: My answer is based on my observation since May ’20, on how the Consumer Disclosure prompt has taken shape. Karolina has worked on this prompt since the end of 2019 and was able to offer a perspective on the work prior to my time.
The first thing we tried to do was to take stock of the good work done by various sub-work streams inside and outside the Collabathon, e.g. mobility, e-commerce, supply chain. This was done with the objective of setting a good base for how far our thinking had evolved and to start to develop further. This development took the form of weekly meetings over a period of six weeks to have an in-depth presentation discussion on one topic as a teaser for exciting ideas and interest.
We attempted to make this information transferable, by creating a navigable knowledge base, so that new participants to the Consumer disclosure prompt would be able to ramp up quickly.
We have done a market analysis of e-commerce products as the next step in the direction of a roadmap.
Arnav Khanna: So far, under the Consumer Disclosure prompt, several projects and ideas have come together. These include EcoWidgy – an e-commerce plugin that shows the environmental impact of products online, CO2ken – a website that allows users to offset their carbon impacts, and a method to calculate a sustainability score presentable to consumers.
Sebastian Klemm: What are the limitations of consumer disclosure and sustainable supply chains today from your point of view?
Karolina Gorna: Most of the time, there is a lack of transparency in the supply chain of products we buy in our daily lifes. I think it is a consumer’s right to know how the product he buys has been produced, especially in view of growing concerns about environmental issues.
Anshu Kumar Jain: There is little or no objective data available to individuals – when acting as consumers – at the point of purchase. Even though many are well intentioned, due to lack of this disclosure, one’s environmental impact is not yet at the front and centre of consciousness in buying situations, enough to help one change his behaviour.
In fact, retailers are suppressing attempts to avoid the environment issue in order not to negatively influence their business.
Consumer disclosure gives us the opportunity to flip a coin and help companies use it as a badge of competitive advantage.
Arnav Khanna: The single biggest limitation for consumer disclosure and sustainable supply chains from my point of view would be the data available. It is hard to find reliable data that accurately represents the sustainability of a product. To effectively make supply chains more sustainable, I believe that sustainability needs to become a marketing point. This way, companies will be more transparent with regards to these numbers and better calculations can be performed.
Consumer Disclosure and Sustainable Supply Chains Work Group engagement video by Karolina Gorna, Anshu Kumar Jain and Arnav Khanna. Link to the video.
Sebastian Klemm: The Collabathon claims that we need an Open Climate Accounting System, since “Global climate accounting – the process of recording climate actors and their actions in respect to the shared account of the planet’s climate state, occurs in diverse set of registry platforms that are individually centralized and collectively dispersed and unlinked.”
Why do you think it is important to link existing protocols and enable an interoperable open climate accounting ecosystem?
Karolina Gorna: Climate is a topic that affects all of us. Therefore, we should unify our forces to create global solutions that will enable everyone to cope with global warming on their own scale. This is why initiatives like the Collabathon have been created, in order to bring together different actors of the ecosystem. We have noticed that a lot of solutions are currently being developed, but they evolve in a competitive market and no one has begun to link them together. Apart from the hack sessions, this is for me the second major challenge of the Collabathon.
Anshu Kumar Jain: Open accounting systems will be a key to transparency at points in the supply chain to obtain a credible aggregation of the environmental impact of a product.
Arnav Khanna: The global nature of the climate problem calls for this type of solution. Within consumer disclosure alone, there are so many different aspects of the prompt we are trying to tackle, and with a problem as large as climate change, this sort of system that uses what has already been completed and improves it is necessary to solve it. There needs to be this sort of ecosystem for collaborative action against environmental harm.
Sebastian Klemm: Why is it important to design the governance mechanism for this Open Climate Accounting System as a digital public good?
Anshu Kumar Jain: I think these open models will be the answer to the question how to have a – self / public – governing system without the need of cumbersome auditing mechanisms, which exist in the financial accounting world.
Sebastian Klemm: In our preceding interview, Dr. Miroslav Polzer says: “The current system with privatization of gains and socialization of costs of economic activity is leading us into catastrophy.”
In your point of view: How can the Open Climate Collabathon’s Open Source crowd-developments as well as its overarching organisational model help to deliver economics differently?
Karolina Gorna: During our working sessions, we met entrepreners from different companies working for the same goal, but without sharing their idea because of the competitive rules. At the Collabathon, we believe that connecting certain projects would be beneficial for the whole ecosystem. Moreover, several alternative economy projects focusing on environmental issues have been proposed, and we are proud to highlight them.
Anshu Kumar Jain: I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Polzer’s statement. I think that here the use of analytical techniques such as System Dynamics in performing time-based Life Cycle Analysis can help inform policy makers where they need to introduce interventions so that the environmental costs are a feedback to the producer or other actors in the supply chain.
Arnav Khanna: Currently, there are some bad actors in the environmental space that concern us for the reasons that Dr. Polzer discussed. Some of the corporations involved in the environmental space are only in the space for the money, and considering this, will prioritize profit over real benefit to the world. The Collabathon’s crowd-development and organisation take away the possibility for these bad actors to get involved. Only those who want to make a real impact get involved and the organisation of the project ensures that individuals involved are taking the correct steps towards fixing the issues they want to fix.
Sebastian Klemm: Following your participation and insights so far: What evidence of positive impact and benefits of the Collabathon do you see already?
Karolina Gorna: The first significant impact I can notice is that it changes the mindset of several companies themselves. Every time we pointed out the Collabathon to them, it awakened a sense of awareness that creating a collective contribution could be beneficial for the Earth. Then, the communication campaign around the project has stimulated different actors and the public to take action. Finally, the Collabathon has become a meeting place for all individuals who want to volunteer their energy in the effort against global warming and climate problems, and this is priceless.
Anshu Kumar Jain: People with a variety of specialities who have joined the Collabathon to found projects to solve multidimensional environmental problems, are an indicator of the Collabathon’s impact. The collaboration of the Open Climate Collabathon with Hyperledger helps to realise some of the digital concepts.
Arnav Khanna: Besides the impact and learning for myself, I have seen the Collabathon ignite thought regarding the environment and how we can fix the issue. I have seen the project expand, seeing new faces every time we have a meeting, and I have seen the growth that has happened from the collaborative aspect of all the prompts. Several projects in the Collabathons Consumer Disclosure space alone have already been developed and are ready to use, and I can only see the Collabathon growing in this space, as well as others, in the future.
Sebastian Klemm: What particular qualities of the Open Climate Collabathon distinguish this ongoing mulit-year project in your opinion?
Karolina Gorna: Unlike hackathons, the Open Climate Collabathon is the first event of its kind as there is no winners but the goal of the project is to create the most complete and useful project together. As the Challenge hasn’t been completed yet, it has been designed to last for years – hopefully not too long as we want to solve the problem.
Arnav Khanna: The collaborative nature of the Collabathon makes it a multi-year project. It brings people from completely different backgrounds and completely different perspectives together to solve one of the biggest problems in the world. I believe that both the teamwork and the magnitude of the problem being tackled distinguish the project.
Sebastian Klemm: Amidst these challenging times of COVID-19, subsequent economic recession, depression and the structural issues of delivering economics differently & bailout the planet:
What opportunities do you see for students, startups, social entrepreneurs and companies to engage in co-creative crowd-developments like the Open Climate Collabathon with regards to the work of the future?
Karolina Gorna: In recent years, we have seen the emergence of collaborative economies and a need for the majority of people to return to their roots, especially during the COVID-19 period. Working on solutions for the climate is one way to contribute to a meaningful project, complementary to our daily job or with the idea to launch our own technical solution. It is essential to give meaning to our work in the future.
Anshu Kumar Jain: The Open Climate Collabathon is a good interface where academia, policy and business can meet. I think a variety of people can join the Collabathon to get inspiration for solving the climate emergency. They can contribute in all sorts of ways eg. taking ideas to the market, creating proof of concepts for future commercialisation.
Arnav Khanna: As a student, this kind of environment has been extremely beneficial to me. I have attended hackathons where those with more experience than me are my competitors. But with the Collabathon and other similar environments I have been able to learn from peers instead of compete. This experience has taught me a lot about project management and leadership. I can see this kind of learning for anyone looking to join any project with a model similar to the Collabathon’s.
Sebastian Klemm: The Collabathon’s most important annual events take place on “Earth Day” in April and at the “UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP)” in November each year.
How will you sustain your engagement for the Collabathon?
Karolina Gorna: For the upcoming sessions, I will be happy to continue the started work and to contribute as a mentor for the “next generation of collaborators”, sharing what we have done so far and how to address difficulties. I will do my best to inform those around me of the possibilities offered by this incredible project.
Anshu Kumar Jain: I am glad to learn and contribute to the Collabathon on a voluntary basis. My time contribution varies through the year due to work commitments.
Arnav Khanna: I plan to continue the work we have been doing until I get into college, where I plan to start my own node of the Collabathon similar to the one at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This way, I will expand the experience I have had – learning from the Collabathon – into a larger environment, while getting more work done.