Our research into impacts on people is divided into five main areas:


Human Rights

We include companies who have subsidiaries or businesses in countries which we call 'oppressive regimes'. This list of countries was last updated in 2011 using research from Amnesty International, Freedom House and the International Centre for Trade Union Rights. See the list >

Also taken into account are criticisms relating directly to human rights abuses - such as forcing people off their land to build a pipeline or hiring other agencies which have perpetuated human rights abuses. Pornography distributors or publishers also appear here.


Abuse of the Land rights of existing residents

All company's products are fair trade

Banking, investment or other financial services relationship with a company criticised in this category

Company self-disclosure of a Human Rights incident

Discrimination on grounds of age, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, creed, disability, class or caste or disability

human rights abuses

Human rights abuses perpetrated by military/security forces and/or government hired by company

Involved in infringements of civil rights (eg ID cards in non-oppressive regimes)

Involvement in projects with links to human rights abuses

Non disclosure of country of origin in sector where sourcing from oppressive regimes is common

companies can also pick up marks for operations in oppressive regimes (see the list for which countries we classify as oppressive regimes)

Positive policy addressing a human rights issue

Publisher or distributor of pornography

Secondary criticism

Sourcing from illegally state-occupied territory

Subsidiary in illegally state-occupied territory

Suppression of freedom of speech

Use of palm oil with no effective remediation strategy

Workers' Rights

In 1911 a fire in a garment factory in New York killed 500 workers. Workers were working in inhumane, unhealthy conditions and poorly paid. You'd think, almost 100 years later that things might have improved, but workers worldwide are still subject to sweatshop conditions.

In 2005 a fire in Bangladesh killed 250 people. The doors of the factory were locked so they could not escape. In this category, we include all cases of workers abuses - whether it's being forced to work over 60 hours a week, low wages, cases of harassment or a company ignoring health & safety legislation.


Aggravated - provision of an inadequate or dangerous working environment

Intimidation of workers by management (including dismissal for strike action)

Banking, investment or other financial services relationship with a company criticised in this category

Payment of wages below that necessary for an adequate living

Company self-disclosure of an incident in this category

Positive policy addressing a workers' rights issue

Denial of right to associate, unionise or bargain collectively

Provision of an inadequate or dangerous working environment

Discrimination by employers on grounds of race, sex, sexuality, age, creed, caste or disability

Retails cotton products but no cotton sourcing policy, ie avoiding Uzbek cotton due to child labour

Enforcement by a company of a working week over 48 hours

Secondary criticism

Enforcement of forced or excessive overtime

Secondary criticism aggravated

Enforcements of excessive or unjustified penalties (fines etc) on workers.

Secondary evaluation of supply chain policy exploitative use of child labour serious criticism or fine from government Health & Safety body Harassment (Inc sexual harassment) or bullying of workforce.

Use of forced or slave labour

Use of Prison Labour

Supply Chain Management

Many of the products that we buy are manufactured overseas in factories which may not even by owned by the company itself. Even so, we think that the companies ought to be responsible for the kinds of conditions those workers find themselves in, so we ask all companies sourcing from overseas to supply us with a 'supply chain policy'.

This is a document set out by a company detailing how the workers in their supply factories must be treated. Like environmental policies, these used to be documents with broad statements about "abiding by country laws". Nowadays, the supply chain policy can be a sophisticated document outlining lots of different conditions and may also include results of factory audits. Companies which are members of 'multi-stakeholder initiatives', such as the UK's ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative) have to abide by the ETI's own code.

Companies making certified fairtrade products will receive a top rating from us in this category. Unfortunately, the existence of a good code doesn't mean that it is actually being adhered to and so we can find huge contradictions, so that companies with the best policies sometimes receive the most criticisms for workers rights abuses.

You can read more about how we rate companies in this section here.

Irresponsible Marketing

This column highlights companies that have marketed their products in a way that has been criticised for causing physical harm, or is detrimental to health. The most famous company that has consistently been criticised in this area is Nestle which has been criticised for the way that it markets its baby milk products.

Other examples of irresponsible marketing include drug companies which have been criticised for putting products on the market even after negative results.


Banking, investment or other financial services relationship with a company criticised in this category

Criticism for irresponsible marketing of food products

Company criticised for marketing alcoholic drinks in a way appealing to children (under 18)

Criticism of irresponsible marketing of food products - aggravated

Company criticised for marketing unhealthy food/drink products in a way designed to appeal to child

Infringement of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes

Company has been criticised for marketing tobacco in a manner which appeals to young people

Irresponsible marketing of alcohol

Company has been criticised for marketing tobacco products

Irresponsible marketing of non food items

Company invests in the tobacco industry

Irresponsible marketing of non-food products - aggravated

Company manufactures tobacco products Irresponsible marketing of pharmaceuticals

Company self-disclosure of an incident in this category Irresponsible marketing of pharmaceuticals - aggravated

Company sells tobacco products

Positive policy addressing an irresponsible marketing issue

Company supplies the tobacco industry

Use of excessively thin or childlike models in fashion advertising

Arms & Military Supply

This not only includes companies that supply weaponry to the armed forces, but also those supplying any goods or services to the armed forces (though the severity of the rating is different!).

The sale of handguns is also included in this column, which is why you might find a famous US owned supermarket receiving a bad rating here.


Banking, investment or other financial services relationship with a company criticised in this category

Non strategic manufacture or supply for the military

Development, manufacture or supply of chemical or biological weapons

Provision of promotion, marketing or sales services to the military or arms manufacturers

Development, manufacture or supply of combat aircraft, including spy planes and 'drones'

Supply of communications services and equipment for the military

Development, manufacture or supply of launch, guidance, delivery or deployment systems for missiles

Supply of computers/electronic equipment to the military

Development, manufacture or supply of tanks or armoured vehicles or vehicles adapted for weapons lau Supply of financial and banking services to the military

Development, manufacture or supply of warships and other boats involved in military intelligence or Supply of fuel to the military

Development, manufacture or supply of weapons systems components. including guns

Supply of weaponry or torture or restraining equipment illegal under international law

Development, manufacture, supply or maintenance of nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons systems and part

Unspecified or specified strategic services to the military, eg where weapons supply is mentioned bu Illegal sale of arms

Download a  PDF document with full details on all ratings