Our research into a company's politics is divided into 5 main areas:
- controversial technologies
- anti-social finance
- boycott calls
- political activity
- tax conduct
This category brings together two areas we rate companies under: Nuclear Power and Genetic Engineering.
While some argue that these pose risks to humans and the environment, for others the issues are less of a concern. Subscribers will be able to click on the stories to read more detail about what a particular company is being criticised for.
Under Nuclear Power, companies will be marked down for being involved in managing nuclear power plants or providing services to the nuclear power industry. Those energy companies where more than 5% of their energy mix comes from nuclear power will also lose marks under this category.
Under Genetic Engineering, companies will be marked down if they are involved in the manufacture or sale of non-medical products likely to contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms); lack of a clear company wide GMO free policy or publicly support the use of GMOs in non-medical products. Those involved in the following: the non-medical genetic modification of plants or animals; gene patenting; and xenotransplantation will also receive criticism under this category.
Controversial Technologies sub-categories
- GE banking, investment or other financial services relationship with a company criticised in this category
- GE company has been involved in cloning
- GE False labelling/trading of genetically modified goods/ingredients
- GE Funding of medical genetic modification of plants or animals
- GE Funding of non-medical genetic modification of plants or animals
- GE Growing GM crops
- GE illegal or unauthorised release or use of GMOs
- GE Information Only
- GE Involvement in gene patenting
- GE involvement in GM medical products criticised on ethical grounds
- GE involvement in the non-medical GM of plants or animals
- GE Involvement in xenotransplantation
- GE Licensing relationship with a company criticised in this category
- GE manufacture or sale of non-medical products involving or containing GMOs
- GE Manufacture or sale of products likely to contain GMOs and the lack of a clear group-wide GMO free
- GE No GM-free cotton policy in clothing sector company
- GE No GMOs policy for own brand products
- GE positive policy addressing a genetic engineering issue
- GE Public defence/promotion of medical GM technology
- GE public statements in favour of the use of GMOs in non-medical applications
- GE Sale or production of animals or animal products with the use of GM animal feed
- GE Secondary criticism
- NP Banking, investment or other financial services relationship with a company criticised in this category
- NP Involved in construction, design, operating or provision of core services
- NP Licensing relationship with a company criticised in this category
- NP medical equipment/uses
- NP membership of a nuclear power industry association
- NP nuclear fuel - uranium mining or processing
- NP nuclear fuel equipment
- NP ownership of nuclear power stations
- NP Positive policy addressing a nuclear power issue
- NP Provision of other nuclear equipment eg monitoring / clothing
- NP Releasing nuclear waste into the environment
- NP secondary criticism
- NP secondary criticism aggravated
- NP Supplier of electricity where >5% comes from nuclear
- NP transport of nuclear waste
- NP waste handling, treatment or storage
Companies may have boycotts called against them for lots of different reasons. At Ethical Consumer, we report on all the boycotts we receive which have a registered headquarters, although we don't necessarily endorse them.
Some campaign groups think that boycotts aren't a good idea in case a company withdraws its business from a factory overseas as a result thus causing lots of workers to lose their jobs and livelihood. Others believe they can be very effective. We think it's up to you where you spend your money.
boycott call sub-categories
- banking, investment or other financial services relationship with a company criticised in this category
- Ongoing boycott of one subsidiary or brand
- Boycott Call - now ceased
- Ongoing boycott of the whole company group
We think that companies have too much influence over governments through lobby groups or donating to the parties themselves.
There are negative marks for companies that donate money to political parties, or companies involved in persuading governments and institutions, through international lobbying organisations, to change policy.
Political Activities sub-categories
- Banking, investment or other financial services relationship with a company criticised in this category
- Lobbying governments for contracts or policy changes
- Bilderberg Group
- Business Action for Sustainable Development
- American Chamber of Commerce - AMCHAM-EU
- Business Round Table
- Transatlantic Business Dialogue
- Trilateral Commision
- European Round Table of Industrialists
- European Services Forum
- International Chamber of Commerce
- US Coalition of Service Industries
- World Business Council for Sustainable Development
- World Economic Forum
- member of free trade lobby group, other than those listed
- Positive policy addressing a political activities issue
- Recorded meetings with ministers
- Secondary criticism
- Company has stated policy of not making political donations
- Suppression of criticism for activities in EC categories by legal or political means
- Donations to both left and right wing parties>£49,999
- Donations to both left and right wing political parties <£49,998
- UK Conservative party <£50,000
- UK Conservative party £50,000 or more
- UK Labour party <£50,000
- UK Labour party £50,000 or more
- US Republicans >$100,000
- Less than £50,000 (or unknown amount) to any other political party
- £50,000 or more to any other political party
- initiating NAFTA
- Lobbying against legislation designed to correct abuses in other ECRA categories
- Lobbying against sound environmental policies
- Lobbying against sound environmental policies - aggravated
- WTO lobbying
- Worst / middle / Best Ethical Consumer rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies
Companies are often found to be engaging in financial practices that cause harm to society, this can include anything from price fixing to insider trading.
We rate companies based on the criteria below.
Anti-Social Finance sub categories
- Banking, investment or other financial services relationship with a company criticised for anti social finance
- Company criticised for enforcing poor terms on small suppliers
- Criticism for irresponsible marketing of financial products
- Criticism for irresponsible marketing of gambling products
- Excessive remuneration for directors or other staff
- Exploitative currency speculation
- Insider trading or dishonest share dealing
- Internet retailer routing sales offshore
- Licensing relationship with a company criticised in this category
- Mis-selling of products (non health related)
- Other publication is critical of transparency record
- Payment of bribes or other corrupt practices
- Positive policy addressing an Anti-Social Finance issue
- Price fixing
- Providing tax haven services or facilities for other companies
- Secondary criticism
- Self-disclosure of an incident in this category
- Third World debt involvement
(a) The company has no subsidiaries based in jurisdictions on Ethical Consumer's list of 43 tax havens.
(b) The company has the Fair Tax Mark.
(c) The company has comprehensive country-by-country tax reporting, a clear public statement confirming that it is company policy not to engage in tax avoidance activity nor to use tax havens for tax avoidance purposes, and provides a narrative explanation for what each entity in a tax haven is for and how it is not being used for purposes of tax minimisation.
The company has two or more non-high-risk subsidiaries which do not appear to be serving the local population and are registered in countries on our tax haven list. It does not have comprehensive public country-by-country reporting with narrative explanation as above.
The company’s UHC is registered in a tax haven to which it is not native, or it has two or more high-risk subsidiaries (see below) which do not appear to be serving the local population and are registered in countries on our current list of tax havens. It does not have comprehensive public country-by-country reporting with narrative explanation as above.
The company has everything required for a middle rating and also has reputable secondary criticism for tax avoidance. High-risk company types are:
- Ultimate Holding Company (UHC)
- Holding Companyl Trustl Nominee Company
- Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)
- Intellectual property company
- Internal finance company
- Insurance subsidiary
- Management services company.
Comprehensive country-by-country reporting
This consists of a full list of subsidiary companies stating the following:
- Place of incorporation
- Sales or turnover
- Net asset values or number of employees
- Tax paid
Some companies, such as financial companies, are required by law to report this, but often ‘forget’ to include one or two key subsidiaries in the list (those located in Jersey, the Cayman Islands, etc).