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Information for companies

This area of the site is designed to help companies find out more about the information we hold on them, their competitors and suppliers.

How do I find out if my company is on your database?

How do I find out more about the data you hold?

Do you ever contact companies?

How can I improve my company's rating? How can I improve my company's rating (strategic issues)? How can I complain if I think a rating is wrong?

Because our researchers are adding new stories every day from newspapers, magazines and websites, they cannot check every story with every company prior to publication. However, our researchers always operate in good faith, and our goal is to produce the best comparative ethical ratings possible given the resources available. We therefore encourage companies to check their own ratings periodically and to challenge our data if there are specific concerns: see How can I Complain below.

How do I find out if my company is on your database?

You may already have discovered that we are rating you company in Ethical Consumer magazine or on our ethiscore.org website. If not, type a few letters from the beginning of your company name into the free search box on the Corporate Critic homepage. If your company is listed it will appear in the search results screen which follows. If your company scores less than 14 (the best score) then we will hold critical data which is affecting your rating.

How do I find out more about the data you hold?

There are three ways to find our more about this data:

  • send us an email asking for a free copy of all the stories we hold on your company. Your email address must be at the company group in question and we ask that you put 'request for company data' in the subject line. We aim to respond to such requests within 14 days;
  • use a credit card to subscribe to Corporate Critic for 24 hours to get instant access to all the stories we hold. This approach has the advantage of letting you get an understanding of how your rating compares against ratings for your competitors - because you can browse or download their detailed ratings too. The current cost for 24 hour access is £21.28 + VAT. If you operate in a consumer products sector, you may want to check our Ethiscore website too, which provides short ranking summaries;
  • take out an annual subscription to the database to track your own detailed ratings and those of your competitors for 12 months. You can use the 'Portfolio Manager' facility to set up email or RSS updates which means that you will be notified every time a new story or piece of data affecting your rating has been added.
  • Companies also use our database to:

  • help inform supply chain risk assessments by researching supplier companies;
  • help inform risk assessments for bid targets or takeover approaches.
  • Annual subscriptions can be made online by credit card for instant access or by requesting an invoice.

    Do you ever contact companies for information?

    Our researchers formally contact companies prior to commencing research for comparative product reports due to appear in Ethical Consumer magazine. We may also make contact for one-off, or commissioned, pieces of research. We prefer to use email for contacting companies, so if you have a contact email address for the person dealing with environmental or CSR issues at your company, please send it to us now.

    We have a rating rule designed to encourage corporate disclosure. This rule says that we will not use data voluntarily disclosed to us by companies to make their rating worse. This means that it is always in your interest to respond to our requests for information.

    What questions do you ask?

    When we contact companies we usually ask them for:

  • environmental reports and/or;
  • CSR reports;
  • and, where applicable:
  • supply chain policies (for workers rights);
  • animal testing policies;
  • policies on genetic modification.
  • We also usually ask for any information about product innovations which have been made to address social and/or environmental issues. We urge companies to display this kind of policy data on their websites to remove the need for requests which can become misdirected.

    How can I improve my company's rating?

    The easiest way for all companies to improve their rating is to look at the way they communicate with the public on a range of social and environmental issues. We rate all companies on environmental reporting. We also ask that companies operating in some specific sectors have publicly disclosed policies on Supply Chain Policy, Animal Testing Policy and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to get the best rating.

    More challenging ways to improve ethical rating involve looking at the issues strategically, and we look at these after a discussion on reporting.

    Environmental Reporting

    To receive our highest rating for environmental reporting a company must issue an environmental or CSR report which:

  • is dated within the last 2 years;
  • shows a reasonable understanding of its main impacts (e.g., if you're an oil company we don't want to hear about your paper recycling);
  • has at least 2 quantified future targets for impact reduction (e.g. Will reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by Jan 2010);
  • is verified or audited by an independent 3rd party.
  • For more information about how to find social and environmental auditors please see Social Accountability International's SA8000 standard or ENDS Directory of Environmental Consultants.

    Companies with sales of less than £5m per year may not have to meet all these standards.

    Supply Chain Policy

    If your company has supply chains stretching into low wage economies (particularly the Far East) we normally expect you to have a Supply Chain Policy which sets minimum standards for workers' rights at supplier companies. These policies are required, for the best rating, in the clothing, electronics and retail sections, but we are extending it to other sections as more manufacturing is transferred to Far East.

    We look for the following elements in each policy:

  • no use of forced labour;
  • freedom of association;
  • payment of a living wage;
  • working week limited to 48 hours and 12 hours overtime;
  • eliminations of child labour (under 15 years old);
  • no discrimination by race, sex etc;
  • independent monitoring.
  • Codes with all 7 will receive the best rating. 4-6 get a middle rating 0-3 or no code at all receive a worst rating. Third party monitors must be named in the policy.

    For more information about supply chain policy development and independent monitoring please see the ETI website.

    Policy on GMOs

    Food and clothing manufacturers and retailers,and companies manufacturing or selling cotton products, will require a policy addressing GMOs to receive the best rating. The policy must be a clear, group-wide, undertaking not to use genetically modified ingredients or raw materials.

    Policy on Animal Testing

    Pharmaceutical, household products and cosmetics and toiletries manufacturers or retailers require an Animal Testing Policy to receive the best rating. To get the best rating a company must have:

  • a policy of not testing products or ingredients on animals, and of not commissioning such tests;
  • a fixed cut off date (i.e. a specific date set by the company after which it will not use any new ingredients tested on animals).
  • How can I improve my company's rating? Strategic issues

    Many ECRA ratings are based on identifying company activities in sectors targeted by campaigners as damaging in themselves. This would include companies involved in, for example, nuclear power, armaments manufacture, factory farming, unsustainable forestry or operating in oppressive regimes.

    Clearly it is harder for a company to address this kind of issue in the short term than it is for it to improve its public reporting regime.

    We have however improved a company's rating in this kind of area where it has made a public, written commitment to phase out or eliminate problem activities by a fixed date in the future; (e.g. phase out PVC by 2010, cease making political donations with immediate effect).

    A full list of the detailed 300 (or so) subcategories we use to track performance is available to Corporate Critic subscribers who use the browse categories function.

    Sometimes a company has shown that an independent third party rating has placed it best in its sector at addressing a strategic issue. Where the ranking system is similar to our own we may be able to improve a rating in these very specific circumstances.

    Company ethos

    Our ethiscore ranking also awards a positive mark where a company has built in specific social or environmental commitments to its mission. Such undertakings include:

  • All products are fair trade;
  • All products are vegan;
  • All products are innovative environmental alternatives;
  • All products comply with BUAV not tested on animals criteria;
  • All products are organic;
  • Not-for-profit trading structure.
  • Positive Product Scores

    Our Ethiscore website, which primarily ranks products rather than companies, also awards additional points if a product has been certified by a third party as:

  • fairtrade;
  • organic;
  • having positive environmental features (e.g. German Blue Angel, Nordic Swan);
  • vegetarian or vegan;
  • embodying other significant sustainability features.
  • How can I complain if I think a rating is wrong?

    We are keen to hear from companies who think that the information we hold about them may be incorrect. Our detailed ethical category definitions may help explain a rating decision.

    We ask that you address specific issues in writing by email to Rob Harrison. It is often best to annotate the existing stories in a word file. If you can point to evidence published by a third party which backs up your position this is even better and can permit us to act more quickly.

    Please note that we normally treat such correspondence as 'for publication' and will either use your words to form a new story on the database (either a 'negating reference' or a 'corporate response').

    If there is a genuine controversy over the facts we may need to consult the original source, which can take a little more time.

    There is often controversy over our rules for rating companies as part of the larger corporate groups in which they sometimes belong. We do this to encourage group-wide responses to ethical issues rather than treating them as a niche opportunity. Rating complex company groups is very difficult. At present, if a company is 26% owned by another company, it earns 26% of the rating of its owner. A worst rating may be inherited in this case, for example, but probably not a middle rating.

    Although the data on Corporate Critic goes back to 1991, only criticisms dated within the last five years are used in an ethiscore rating.

    If you wish to make general comments about the rating system, we are also keen to hear them. Please mark them 'Not for publication' if this is important, otherwise they may find their way into our consumer magazine. Your comments will feed into the regular reviews of the rating system which take place at ECRA.