Ethical Survey



25 years of Ethical Consumer


Our readers vote vote for the most and least ethical companies


Least ethical company


Nestlé has been voted the least ethical company of the last 25 years by readers of Ethical Consumer.

The Swiss food company 'won' with 15% of the vote, finishing just above Monsanto (14%) and the UK's number one tax avoider Amazon (12%).

Nestlé is currently subject to the longest ever running consumer boycott. For over 20 years Baby Milk Action has called a boycott of the company for its irresponsible marketing of baby milk formula, which infringes the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. 

In recent years the company has also been criticised for its use of child labour and palm oil, and for not labelling GM ingredients. 

Ethical Consumer's Tim Hunt, who helped conduct the survey, said:

“This is a really interesting result. It shows that people still feel strongly about Nestlé even after so many years and despite it trying to greenwash its image by using Fairtrade chocolate in some of its products.

“From baby milk to Kit Kats and across all its product lines, Nestlé's brands score just 1 out of 14 on our ethical rankings tables.” 

The top ten least ethical companies were:



Top Ethical Companies


Readers' top ten ethical brands of the last 25 years are:


As Tim Hunt says:

"Over the last 25 years the Co-operative Group has been at the forefront of the ethical consumer movement, for instance it has taken a pioneering stance towards fairtrade becoming the first retailer to only stock fairtrade bananas. In 2012 it also stopped sourcing any products from the occupied territories"

"Many commentators have had their knives out for the Co-op Group in recent months but Ethical Consumer's readers are able to see through the spin and realise that despite some problems the Group remains an ethical business at heart".



We also asked our readers a number of other questions about their ethical shopping habits over the last 25 years.

The most boycotted companies include Amazon (which is subject to an Ethical Consumer boycott call over their tax avoidance), supermarket giant Tesco and oil company Shell, followed by Primark and Coke. See our full list of current consumer boycotts


Environmental Impact

The top five biggest actions readers have taken to reduce their environmental impact over the last 25 years include:

Changing electricity suppliers, going vegan, installing solar panels, starting to cycle for transport and stopping flying.

Readers were asked what was their most difficult ethical shopping decision. The top five answers were:

Stop using Amazon; stop flying; boycotting unethical clothing retailers; not upgrading my mobile phone; stop eating meat.


The brand that people most want to see become ethical is tech company Apple.


Gazing into their crystal balls readers thought that the most important developments in ethical consumption over the next 25 years will be:

  • Better ethical labelling
  • More Fairtrade products
  • Greater transparency from companies
  • Stopping tax avoidance
  • Greater use of social media to share and buy ethical products


Thanks to all those who took part in the survey. 

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