Here are some FAQs about our shopping guide tables
What does the score mean?
We score products on the table out of 20.
The higher the score, the more ethical the company.
There is a simple traffic light system on the scores to give you a rough guide to how a company is doing.
- Red is for scores of 0 - 4.5. The companies which own these products need to do much more improve their ethics and we suggest you avoid buying from them where possible.
- Amber is for scores of 5 - 11.5. The companies which own these products are doing some positive work but could do more.
- Green is for scores of 12 - 15. We consider these to be ethical products owned by companies that are worth supporting.
How are scores calculated?
We score each company out of 14 and each product on the tables 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 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 - subscribers only can access the stories.
What is the 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:
- 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. For example organic brand Pukka Herbs is 100% owned by chemicals giant Unilever, and so picks up marks from Unilever and other companies owned by Unilever.
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 visa versa.
See a full explanation about our Ratings and Categories here
Can I customise the scores?
You can customise the scores using the tick boxes at the bottom of the table. Ticking a category or sub category will increase the weighting of this category in the scoring table e.g. if you are really passionate about animal rights then tick the animals box to give greater emphasis to these issues.
If the scores on the table don’t change then this is because the companies have not picked up marks in the category you have selected.
We’re sorry but you can’t save the customised scores.
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 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.
Most guides are open for all users but others are only available to subscribers. When guides have been on the site for 6 months we often move 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 booksellers 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 almost 30 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.