Our Ethical Ratings

The scores on our Product Guides are compiled from ethical ratings, fed live from our unique research database. 

The database is a result of over 20 years work conducting primary and secondary research and systematically organising it using our ratings system. We continue to update it daily.

How we score the companies

We score each company out of 14 and each product out of 20.

We use a negative based scoring system where a company starts with 14 and then gets marks taken away if it gets criticised in one or more of our categories.

There is one exception to this. Companies can score a positive mark under company ethos if they commit to certain things (e.g. Fairtrade) across their whole company group.

Products (on score tables) can receive extra marks for a number of things e.g. being certified organic and so are scored out of 20.

See our bookshops as an example of our shopping guide score tables >

Rating Companies

Some websites or magazines look at ethical products, but Ethical Consumer is the only organisation which provides fully transparent rankings of the companies behind the brands.

Some products might be considered 'ethical', but the company that owns the brand might not be. Isn't it better to buy a cruelty-free product from a company that doesn't test its other items on animals, or recycled toilet paper from a firm that isn't cutting down virgin forests for its other ranges?

Using the tables in the magazine or looking deeper into the Shopping Guides on this website, subscribers can see which companies own each brand, and their ethical record across all the different categories.

Each story we add to the database affects the score of a company for five years. After this period it remains on the database but no longer impacts the company score.

See our profile of Amazon as an example of our fully transparent ratings >

Information Sources

Most of our information comes from previously published sources. These sources include publications and reports by campaign groups like Oxfam, Friends of the Earth and War on Want.

We look at the daily newspapers, public records on pollution and health & safety prosecutions and use directories on the defence and nuclear industries.

We also request information directly from the companies on their environmental policies and reporting, and other policies, such as their attitude towards animal testing and to workers in their supply factories.

The ratings categories

Our ratings cover around 300 topics in 19 areas in 5 main categories:

Animals

Our research on animals is divided into three main areas:

  • Animal Testing
  • Factory Farming
  • Animal Rights & Cruelty
Learn more

Environment

As 'environment' is a very broad area, we use five different categories:

  • Environmental Reporting
  • Climate Change
  • Pollution & Toxics
  • Habitats & Resources
  • Palm Oil
Learn more

People

Our 'People' category is divided into 5 areas of research:

  • Human Rights
  • Workers' Rights
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Irresponsible Marketing
  • Arms & Military Supply
Learn more

Politics

Our research into a company's politics is divided into 4 areas:

  • Anti-Social Finance
  • Boycott Calls
  • Controversial Technologies
  • Poltical Activity
Learn more

Sustainability

We have two categories rewarding those brands making a positive impact: 

  • Company Ethos 
  • Product Sustainability (organic, fairtrade, energy efficient, vegan & vegetarian products)
Learn more

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