Broadband

We investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental records of 10 broadband providers.

We give our Best Buy recommendations and take a closer look at tax avoidance.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

What to buy

What to look for when choosing broadband:

  • Is the provider a not-for-profit company? Look for providers with innovative business models. For example, is the provider a co-operative?

Best Buys

There are three Best Buy companies, which all have innovative trading structures:

What not to buy

What to avoid when choosing broadband:

  • Is the company a tax avoider? Does the company score a worst Ethical Consumer rating for its likely use of tax avoidance strategies?

  • Profits over people? Does the company score an Ethical Consumer worst rating for supply chain management?

Companies to avoid

One company scores a worst Ethical Consumer rating for both tax avoidance and supply chain management. Plus it has been at the forefront of climate change denial, a cheerleader for the right-wing agenda and has continuously campaigned against the BBC.

  • Sky

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20)

Green ISP broadband

Company Profile: Green ISP
15

GreenNet broadband

Company Profile: GreenNet Educational Trust
15

The Phone Co-op broadband

Company Profile: Phone Co-op Ltd
14.5

Zen broadband

Company Profile: Zen Internet Limited
11

SSE broadband

Company Profile: SSE Plc
10.5

TalkTalk broadband

Company Profile: TalkTalk Group
8

BT broadband

Company Profile: BT Group Plc
7

EE broadband

Company Profile: EE Limited
7

Virgin Media Broadband

Company Profile: Virgin Media Inc
7

Sky broadband

Company Profile: Sky plc
6.5

What is most important to you?

Animals
Environment
People
Politics
Product sustainability

Our Analysis

For many people, home broadband (your internet connection) will be one of the biggest monthly utility bills for which you can choose your supplier.

The market is dominated by four big providers, (90% of market share is with Virgin, BT, Sky and TalkTalk), unfortunately all these market leaders appear in the bottom half of the table above.

All four have been marked down for lobbying, excessive remuneration of directors, and having no policy to reduce the toxic chemicals they used.

Luckily for ethical consumers, there are also three good ethical alternatives which come at the top of our table above.

Score table highlights

Sky is the lowest scoring company on the table and is connected to The Sun newspaper, a target of the Stop Funding Hate campaign.

BT fared slightly better in some respects, as it had good environmental reporting, and, along with TalkTalk, 100% of the electricity it purchased in the UK was from renewable sources, as well as 95% of the electricity it used worldwide. However, it was the only company on the table to be marked down for supplying equipment to the military, for its contract to provide communications between an RAF base in Northamptonshire and America’s headquarters for drone attacks in Africa.

Virgin, BT and Sky were the only companies marked down for likely tax avoidance.

In the middle of the table are Zen Internet and SSE.

SSE is a UK Living Wage employer, and Fair Tax Mark business, and it started offering broadband in 2015. However, it does also own coal and oil power stations, although it is shifting away from coal and more towards renewable energy, alongside gas.

Despite having Fair Tax Mark status, SSE lost marks in the Anti-Social Finance column for several reasons including criticisms of inflated prices and profiteering levelled at all the ‘big six’ energy providers, from Ofgem, the government regulator for gas and electricity markets.

As a relatively small provider, Zen Internet was not in the league of the likely tax avoiders and members of free trade lobbying groups.

Top of the table

At the top of the table are two not-for-profit organisations, Green ISP and GreenNet, which are both Ethical Consumer Best Buy label companies. Both run their offices on renewable energy from Good Energy. All the servers used by GreenNet are also powered by renewable energy, and Green ISP offers either solar-powered hosting based in the US, or UK-based hosting which is carbon-offset by working with Treesponsibility, a community-based climate action group based in Yorkshire.

Not far behind is The Phone Co-op, a consumer co-operative owned by its members, not interested, as it says, in “making huge profits for the benefit of a few shareholders”.

All of the companies on the broadband table use BT’s infrastructure except Virgin which uses its own cables. Although only Virgin is able to widely offer home broadband without a phoneline, it is not necessarily cheaper, even if you don’t really need a landline.

With GreenNet and Green ISP you need an existing phoneline. All other providers include the phoneline in their package. New rules from the Advertising Standards Agency mean that, from October 2016, deals advertised must include the cost of line rental, rather than listing it as a separate charge which was misleading.

Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch who owns part of Sky through his family trust.

Company profile

Sky’s major shareholder is 21st Century Fox, a Rupert Murdoch company. The company feature heavily in our guide to subscription TV where we encourage readers to steer clear of his many brands, with their well-known right-wing position. This was in the context of refugees dying on the borders of Europe, the rise of far-right parties, and the Murdoch news empire’s bias against the scientific consensus on climate change.  

More recently, Murdoch’s Sun newspaper has been targeted by the Stop Funding Hate campaign, which began after the upsurge in media hate speech that accompanied the EU referendum. The campaign quotes the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who in 2015 raised concerns about the “vicious verbal assault on migrants and asylum seekers in the UK tabloid press”, which he said followed “decades of sustained and unrestrained anti-foreigner abuse, misinformation and distortion.” The aim of the campaign is to “take on the divisive hate campaigns of the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express by persuading advertisers to pull their support.”

Want more information?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

This information is reserved for subscribers only. Don't miss out, become a subscriber today.

Start your 30 day trial today!

Ethics made easy - comprehensive, simple to use, transparent and reliable ethical rankings. Subscribe today for a wealth of data at your fingertips.

We will take payment when you order, but you can cancel by phone or email within 30 days for a full no-questions-asked refund!

Start your 30 day trial today!