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Shopping Guide Table FAQS

Here are some FAQs about our shopping guide tables

What does the score mean?

We score products on the table out of 100.

The higher the score, the more ethical the product.

The scores use a simple traffic light system to give you a rough guide to a company's performance.

  • Red is for scores of 0 - 25. The companies which own these products need to do much more to  improve their ethics and we suggest you avoid buying from them where possible.
  • Amber is for scores of 25 - 59. The companies which own these products are doing some positive work but could do more.
  • Green is for scores of 60+. We consider these to be ethical products owned by companies that are worth supporting.

If you are comparing scores of companies or products, we recommend doing this within a shopping guide, which is how we rate them. The scores do not necessarily compare neatly between different guides, as different rating categories  are used in different sectors.


Updating our scoring system

We are currently updating our rating system.

Some guides use a new rating system, while others use the old one.

All products score out of 100 but each guide rates products using categories appropriate to that market..

Guides will be marked to say which system they use.


How scores are calculated using the new system

Each product will be scored out of 100, starting at 0 and gaining or losing marks depending on the company’s policies and practices.

The score tables in each new guide will always include columns on Climate, Workers, Animals, Tax and Company Ethos and bespoke columns depending on the market — for example, a Materials column in a clothing guide.

You can see the stories used to calculate the score on the right-hand side of the shopping guide table.

A story outlines exactly how we have rated each company for a specific set of criteria.


How are scores calculated in the old system?

We previously scored companies out of 20. To make the guides compatible with our new rating system we have used a multiplier to create a score out of 100. New guides rate companies out of 100

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

Companies can also score a positive mark under Company Ethos if they commit to certain things (e.g. all products are Fairtrade or vegan) across their whole company group.

Products (on score tables) can receive extra marks under Product Sustainability for a number of things and so are scored out of 20. A letter in square brackets after the brand name indicates the category of sustainability.
Product Sustainability positive marks cover things like:
[O] for being a certified organic product
[F] for being a Fairtrade certified product
[Vg] for being a vegan product
[V] for being a vegetarian product
[S] for being environmentally sustainable

Details can be found in the story when you click on the category - only subscribers can access the stories.

What is the old scoring based on?

We rate companies, brands and products based on the brand owner known as the ultimate holding company (UHC). This means you can see exactly where your money goes when you buy a product and also reflects the fact that the UHC ultimately has power over what a brand does.

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 and products.

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?

The scoring is based on 300 topics in 5 main areas:

  • animals
  • environment
  • people
  • politics
  • product sustainability.

Every company starts with a score of 14, we then take points off if they get criticised in one of the categories. The stories relating to this scoring are in blue on the table.

Plus points are awarded for product sustainability (e.g. the product is vegan) Or company ethos (e.g. the company is a co-operative).

If there is no category heading it means that there are no stories in that category for that brand.

See a full explanation about our Ratings and Categories here.


How do I see more information on the stories behind the scores?

We pride ourselves on the fact our rating system is fully transparent, so you can see exactly why a company has scored the way it has.

Click on a category heading on the tables (e.g. animals) to see the stories that make up the score.

On some guides you’ll need to subscribe to see these.


Why do I see stories for other companies and brands in the table?

As mentioned above, we rate companies at the UHC (ultimate holding company) level. 

This means that a company or brand can pick up marks from its parent company, and other companies which have the same ownership.

Some companies are just partly owned by another company. For example Good Energy is 25% owned by Ecotricity and so stories for Ecotricity may appear under Good Energy and vice versa.

See a full explanation about our Ratings and Categories here


How often do you rate companies?

We are rating companies every day and scores on the tables update every 24 hours.

However we don’t rate every company every day (there are over 3000 in our guides!).

We rate all the companies on a guide and aim to update the text at least once every three years to make sure everything is up to date.


Why do you have a paywall?

We are an independent not-for-profit co-operative and need the revenue generated by subscribers to fund our research and campaign work.

We have a few guides which are fully open to everyone. These are currently bookshops, soaps, and over the counter medicine. 

Other guides are partially open to everyone, with all the narrative and some scores avaiable, with some information for subscribers only. New guides have all their scores for subscribers only. When guides have been on the site for 6 months we often partially remove the paywall so that all users can see the score tables and Best Buy recommendations. But you'll still need to subscribe to see all the stories behind the scores.


How do I see all the information?

Check out our sample guide to bookshops if you haven't yet subscribed to see what is included.

Alternatively, try our 30 day free trial.

How are brands selected?

Brands are selected based on their market share or if they offer an innovative social or environmental alternative.
Contact us to find out how you can be included in a shopping guide table.


What is a Best Buy and why is a Best Buy not always top of the table?

Best Buys are decided by the editorial team based on the research we have undertaken, the scoring system, and the unique insight into the issues that our editorial team has.

9 times out of 10 this will be the brand (or brands) that are top of the table but sometimes an ethical company which is truly innovative scores less well on our rigid scoring system and we use the Best Buy and Recommended buy section to acknowledge this.


What is Ethical Consumer?

Ethical Consumer is a not-for-profit co-operative based in Manchester. For 35 years we’ve been researching companies and brands to help people shop more ethically. Find out more about us.

Want to know more?

This quick guide to our tools explains how it all works.