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Research and ratings

"The big business issue of the next decade will be harnessing the energies of competition for the common good." Michael Taylor, Director Christian Aid 1997

About Corporate Critic Research Database

What is Corporate Critic?
How is Corporate Critic compiled?
Company groups
About the Ethiscore
Product Sustainability
Verified and unverified scores
Work in Progress

What is Corporate Critic?

Corporate Critic is a database containing information on the behaviour of over 30,000 companies. It holds data on companies from anywhere in the world - from small independents to large multinationals. It seeks to collect and categorise information in five main areas:
  • Environment (Environmental Reporting, Pollution, Nuclear Power, Other Environmental Issues)
  • People (Oppressive Regimes, Workers' Rights, Irresponsible Marketing, Armaments)
  • Animals (Animal Testing, Factory Farming, Other Animal Rights)
  • Extras (Political Activity, Boycott Call, Genetic Engineering, Alerts)
  • Product Sustainability (Organic, Fairtrade, Positive Environmental Features, Ethical Consumer magazine Best Buy, Company Sustainability, Other Sustainability)

Most people, though they may broadly support many of the issues, will have some areas of particular concern. Because of this we aim to provide information in a way which enables people to make decisions based on their own priorities. Breaking the information down into clear categories is one way we do this. Another way is via the Customise Scores feature of the database.

How is Corporate Critic compiled?

Corporate Critic is compiled primarily from information already in the public domain. Our team of researchers regularly search through over 80 publications (more details) and summarise information on corporate activity into easy-to-read abstracts or 'stories'. Information on companies is taken from
  • publications by environmental, animal rights and Third World campaigning NGOs such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Amnesty, WDM etc.
  • corporate communications such as Annual Reports and company websites.
  • commercial defence and nuclear industry directories
  • pollution and health & safety prosecution records
  • a wide range of other international sources
We also request information directly from companies on issues such as environmental reporting, animal testing policy and codes of conduct.

Each abstract is fully referenced to a particular publication, permitting users to explore and follow up stories in more detail. Our reseachers in Manchester add new stories to the database on a daily basis. These are uploaded onto Corporate Critic and scores recalculated nightly. Because of the ongoing nature of this behaviour-monitoring process, we do not systematically check each story or rating with companies prior to publication. Many of the ratings or stories will have been published before in Ethical Consumer magazine. We encourage companies to contact us if they believe a story or rating is in error and we will always address the issues raised.

Company groups

Most corporate responsibility rating organisations 'rate' company groups as single organisations. Corporate Critic database is therefore structured to map complex company groups. This means that extracts on specific companies generally appear with ownership information.
For example, British Sugar is owned by a holding company called Wittington Investments. It is important to note that the ethical ratings represent those of the company group as a whole, so where British Sugar is rated, the ratings refer not just to British Sugar but to Wittington and/or other companies owned by Wittington Investments. The exception to this is under the "Environmental Reporting" and "Code of Conduct" categories, where ratings can refer to the specific subsidiary's environmental report or code of conduct if this is better. When one company buys another, the new company is deemed to have inherited the past record of the other, unless there is clear evidence that the take-over has seen a change in policy and practice.

Significant effort is made with Corporate Critic to maintain the integrity and accuracy of information. Each company is assigned to its UHC (Ultimate Holding Company) but frequent global mergers, takeovers and acquisitions mean that company group information can be of an advisory nature only. Therefore, if a particular piece of information is to play a significant role in a campaigning or investment decision, we recommend making additional ownership checks.

Of course, accurate ownership information is of the utmost importance to us at ECRA, and we make every effort to monitor significant changes. If you discover information which you believe is incorrect, please contact us and we can make changes within 24 hours if necessary.

About the ethiscore

The ethiscore is a numerical ethical rating designed to help users quickly differentiate companies which have attracted significant levels of criticism from those which have attracted less attention. The un-customised ethiscore rates all the categories equally, and we fully expect subscribers to use the Customise Scores area of Corporate Critic to generate ratings which best reflect their own organisational priorities.
Although Corporate Critic holds data going back to 1991, all ratings and ethiscores are based only on information published in the last five years. Detailed information on how we rate companies in each category appears on the Category Definitions page of this website.

The are two types of ethiscore present in the Corporate Critic database:

A company ethiscore of 0 to 15 points.
15 is best and 0 worst. This is the main type of ethiscore which appears throughout the database.
The company ethiscore is based on the subtraction of all the corporate responsibility categories in which the database holds current criticisms from a baseline number. Therefore if a company has received criticisms in the Animal Testing (1 point) and Workers Rights (1point) categories, its ethiscore will be 12. [14 (baseline) minus 2 categories = 12] If the company had a lesser criticism under, say, Workers Rights (0.5 points) then its ethiscore would be 14 minus 1.5 = 12.5
The fifteenth point is for 'Company Sustainability' - a positive Corporate Responsibility category - which gives an additional point to companies who, for example, only sell organic products.

A product ethiscore of 0 to 20 points.
20 is best and 0 worst.
This ethiscore is a score for products and is made up by combining a company ethiscore with a rating for product sustainability, and is based on five positive attributes which a product may have. Therefore if a 12 point company is listed as selling an organic (1 point) and fairtrade (1 point) tea, then the tea would receive an ethiscore of 12+2 = 14.
The product ethiscore only currently appears in Detailed Product Tables and will be a particular feature of later versions of Corporate Critic (see Work in Progress).

Product Sustainability

A new feature of Corporate Critic database from January 24th 2005 is that it contains information designed to help you identify sustainable products in selected markets.

Markets currently containing systematically collected product sustainability scoring data include:
Fridges (Consumer Product Manufacturers, Domestic Appliances)
Fridge Freezers (Consumer Product Manufacturers, Domestic Appliances)
Freezers (Consumer Product Manufacturers, Domestic Appliances)
Computers (Computer Hardware)
Printers (Computer Hardware)
Mobile Phones (Telecommunications Services & Equipment)
Green Electricity Tariffs (Energy & Utilities, Electricity)

By using the Customise Scores area of the database you can build rating tables which only contain product sustainability data – or you can combine them with a few corporate responsibility issues from the list. This may be attractive to organisations like public authorities which are circumscribed in the criteria they can apply to purchasing decisions.

The five product sustainability criteria we currently use are: Fair Trade [F], Organic [O], Positive Environmental Features [E], Ethical Consumer magazine Best Buy [B], Other Sustainability Features [S]. Any product with positive sustainability characteristics within these definitions will have one or more of these five suffixes after the product name [F,O, E, B, S] on the database (e.g. Electrolux Fridges [E]).

Product sustainability data is best located in the Browse Markets view, where each sub-sector with sustainability data will have a link just below the title View Detailed Scores Table. A star in a product sustainability column will:
(a) increase the product ethiscore
(b) correspond to a story (and publication) explaining the reason for the star rating, and detailing any specific models to which the rating applies.
In some cases, such as Organic or FairTrade, it will rarely be necessary to view a story because the product will be clearly labelled at the point of sale. In other cases, the story may contain useful detail about the products or models to which the positive rating applies, as the following story illustrates.

Date: January 2005
Company: Haier Group
Story: Fridges EU A+ energy ratings
Category: Positive Environmental Features
Primary Reference: Ethical Consumer: 92 (Jan/Feb 2005) (25 November 2004) Ethical Consumer magazine of January 2005 reported that the following Haier fridge models had an A+ or A++ energy rating and were HFC free: HR-176KAAA and HR-166KAA.

To view a story from a Score Table, use the back button to view the market (sub sector) list. Click on the product name you wish the follow up, and then on Stories in the Product Information Page, and then choose View Abstracts.

Developing our product sustainability ratings
The product sustainability ratings are designed to help institutional purchasers identify sustainable products according to criteria systematically applied across a market. We are seeking to expand this area of our work in 2005 and area actively looking for partners to help move this area of our work forward.

Verified and unverified scores

Ethiscores in brackets (12) are computer generated ethiscores which are calculated from data entered as part of the Corporate Critic press monitoring function, and data entered in the process of previous research for reports in Ethical Consumer magazine. For computer generated companies, the absence of a mark in a particular column does not necessarily mean that a company has no involvement in that area. It simply means that no evidence has yet come to our attention that it does.
Ethiscores without brackets are 'Researcher Verified' ethiscores which are based on systematic annual information gathering on the company in question. 'Researcher Verified' ethiscores, which tend to be lower scoring, are best compared with other researcher verified scores. Only 'Researcher Verified' ethiscores are used to compile rating tables.
Our work program for 2005 plans to substantially increase the number of Researcher Verified ethiscores on the database. If it is important for you to have a particular company 'Researcher Verified', please contact our research team to enquire whether the company in question is already part of the plan.

Work in progress

Although Corporate Critic has been collating abstracts critical of company behaviour since 1991, many new elements have been brought to the project in 2004. These include the ethiscore, markets, turnover, and product sustainability categories. At the time of launch (January 24th 2005), work on a number of these areas was still ongoing, and many gaps were still apparent.
Our work on markets and product sustainability is planned to have been substantially completed by April 2005, by which time 50 Scores Tables will have been completed for a range of key products.