How sustainable are your favourite brands?

News, blog and backgrounds about the sustainability scores of brands

Donate to support our next shoe ranking

It’s time for shoe brands to step up to the plate! In the areas of sustainability, social responsibility and transparency, which brands are progressing in leaps and bounds, and which are digging their heels in?

To answer this question, Rank a Brand is asking supporters to help raise the funds needed to update our shoe brand ranking. A crowdfunding campaign specifically for this project has been set up on Pifworld and is ready to take donations. For every €250 raised, we can assess one brand. Donors will have the opportunity to nominate a brand they’d like included in the ranking by leaving a message when donating.

Click here to donate to the crowdfunding campaign for our shoe update

If you regularly check the Rank a Brand website for information from an independent source, please consider making a donation and spreading the word amongst your networks to support this update. Your donation will help us continue our work and increase its impact on brands and consumer behavior.

For this project, all brands will be graded against criteria that covers the biggest issues in the shoe production industry – child labour, fair wages for workers, environmentally-friendly leather tanning, use of eco-friendly materials, banning hazardous and toxic chemicals, and reducing carbon emissions.

Our last shoe and footwear ranking was completed in early 2015 and saw Ethletic finish first with an overall B-rating. However, many of the selected brands showed much room for improvement with the majority  receiving an E, the lowest possible rating. Not exactly kicking goals! But that was almost two years ago and it’s possible they have since stepped up their game.

Are we the only ones footing the bill for that pair of new kicks?
It’s often hard to tell. But brands that publish information about their production chains, the materials used and the people involved in making their products, show consumers that they are motivated by more than just their bottom line. With help from environmentally and socially-conscious consumers like you, Rank a Brand will identify and highlight the shoe brands  currently leading the way and nudge those lagging behind.

See which popular shoe brands were included in the 2015 ranking and how they scored, under the Shoes & footwear sector on our website.

Rank a Brand is a completely independent, non-profit organisation. We rely on donations to grade brands across a variety of sectors on their sustainability, and keep consumers informed. In addition to this project, you can also support us by becoming a Friend of Rank a Brand with a donation of €25 or more per year.

You can also support us in the following ways:

Yearly overview 2016

First of all, we wish you a happy, sustainable and fair 2017! We welcome this new year with its new possibilities, many brands that will be updated or newly ranked, and other projects being started or prolonged. In this blog, we want to take you back to 2016, and show you what we have accomplished with your support.

We also want to use this opportunity to thank you for your support, by following us on social media, by subscribing to our newsletter, by sharing our work, and of course, by purchasing the fairest and most sustainable brands. By doing so, you’ve helped us to enlarge our international community of responsible consumers and put more pressure on brands to improve their sustainability performance. Nevertheless, there is one important way you can help us continuing our work, and that is by becoming a Friend of Rank a Brand. With your financial support, we can do more research and push more brands towards sustainability.

2016: a quick overview
In 2016, we saw many new volunteers join our team from many different countries, and we now consist of a global group of more than 70 rankers. With the great work of this team, we have newly ranked or updated a total of 331 brands this year of which dozens are new. The total number of ranked brands on our website now consists of more than 750, with many more on our to-do list, as requested by you – our users. You can help us realize even more rankings by joining our team of rankers.

Our 2016 rankings were seen by 790,000 visitors on our websites alone. If we include our mobile websites and blogs, the number is even higher, with around 918,000 visitors. Thereby, November was our record month with 85,000 visitors. Never before have we had so many visitors consulting our rankings. What a great prospect for 2017!

Apart from updating and adding brands to our website, we also worked on different side-projects. One highlight is the Sustainable Cotton Ranking 2016. For this project, we examined the use of (more) sustainable cotton by 37 of the largest cotton buying companies. For more information on this project, read our blog.

Coming back to our ranking work: another large project we undertook in 2016 is the ranking of Cosmetics, in collaboration with StoereVrouwen. This is one of our other highlights of 2016, as well as an important milestone. By adding these rankings of popular cosmetics brands, we have served our users by adding the sector that was most requested to our platform. Plus, by also adding Drugstores, we can now proudly say: “Rank a Brand has never before been as complete as it is today”!

Impact of our rankings
The rankings combined with these side-projects generated quite some media attention in 2016. Most of the articles, radio interviews, and blogs are in German and Dutch, still our main language areas. However, more and more often we also see our work being picked up internationally.

Aside from an ever increasing number of critical consumers using and consulting our rankings (Top 3 countries: Netherlands, Germany & USA), brands also notice the impact of Rank a Brand on the way their brand is viewed. Because of this, an increasing number of brands enter into dialogue with us. Furthermore, better performing brands increasingly refer to their ranking. Some examples are C&A, G-Star (from minute 2:00), Fairphone and Kings of Indigo.

To the future
Coming year, we will further develop and aim the launching of our new website. Please help us share this flyer searching for developers and other volunteers to work on the new website. With or without this new website, we expect to hit a million visitors. Furthermore, we plan to further increase our visibility through the general media and social media, to spread our rankings to as much interested people as possible.

In January and February, we will publish our new rankings on Websites and Telecom brands. We will also launch a crowdfunding campaign to attract funding for our next ranking of shoe brands. Of course, many more sectors will be updated in 2017. We will keep you posted on these developments in future blogs and newsletters. We are very much looking forward to it and hope you do too!

To continue our work, we need your support!
Rank a Brand is a completely independent, non-profit organization that, for a large part, runs on donations from consumers like you, who share our vision for a fairer and more sustainable world. If you can spare a small amount, we can keep offering you up-to-date information on the sustainability of hundreds of brands in the areas of fashion, food and beverages, electronics, body care and many other sectors. Furthermore, it helps us to increase the pressure on these brands to become more sustainable, socially responsible and transparent.

You can support us in the following ways:

  • Become Friend of Rank a Brand with a donation of €25 per year and join our community of responsible consumers – simply click on the link and complete the form.
  • Donate directly by bank transfer to IBAN: NL43 TRIO 0390 2148 41 (BIC: TRIONL2U) Rank a Brand, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Join our team of volunteers and help keep our rankings up-to-date. See Research with us for more information.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn for updates on the latest rankings, and subscribe to our newsletter through our website.

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A guide to responsible Christmas shopping

For those who celebrate Christmas, it often feels like December is over before it’s begun. Whizzing by in a flurry of festive planning and parties, all while trying to wrap things up at work before a hard-earned break. And whether you enjoy shopping or not, finding gifts for friends and loved ones can be stressful. Even more so when you care about the origin of those gifts, the labour conditions of the people involved in their production and the environmental impact.

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This is the very reason that Rank a Brand formed back in 2009. And it’s times like these that the Rank a Brand website becomes the perfect tool for busy people trying to allocate their festive budget responsibly.

Now that the number of graded brands on our website has exceeded 750, we thought a quick guide to which brands are on our “nice” list would save shoppers some time. This means that the brands mentioned below scored no lower than a B-label in our rankings.

Under Fashion, Clothing & Shoes, you’ll find sustainability information about loads of brands in this sector, with just one, Saint Basics receiving an A-label. Saint Basics produces underwear made with organic cotton for men and women, and they also offer digital gift vouchers – the perfect last-minute gift!

Many of the B-label brands in this sector offer clothing and other fair and environmentally-friendly gifts, conveniently via their online stores.

Greenality has some funky reusable cups by KeepCup, which pair nicely with some A-label tea or coffee beans from GEPA or Lebensbaum. There’s also some creatively designed glass drink bottles from Soulbottles, bags, wallets, socks and jewellery. People Tree is also a great source for accessories, mainly for women, including totes, clutches, slippers and gift vouchers, if choosing becomes too difficult!

For that true individual, check out the bleed range of belts made from cork and recolution for ladies t-shirts with fun and interesting designs.

Most of the brands in our Casual Clothing sector offer winter accessories such as scarves, beanies, gloves and mittens, which make excellent gifts for all ages. But if you’re buying for an outdoorsy type, Vaude may be more their style.

For cute clothes and accessories for babies and kids, there’s plenty to choose from. See Band of Rascals, Cotonea and hessnatur.

In the second half of this year we added Cosmetics to our rankings. In this sector, a B-label was the highest grade given, with Weleda and Dr Hauschka topping the list, closely followed by Sante, Logona and Self. All of these brands have store finders on their websites to help you find a stockist nearby.

But of course, we don’t just spend money on gifts at Christmas. We’re also hosting and attending parties, and it wouldn’t be much of a party without food, drinks and decorations! So be sure to check which brands topped the Supermarket rankings, and our freshly updated Soda and Beer rankings before you start filling your trolley. Scroll down to earlier blog posts if you’re interested in reading about the overall sustainability performance of these sectors.

Finally, for eco-friendly Christmas decorations, including LED-lights, candles and tree ornaments, as well as baking tools such as adorable cookie cutters, we recommend Waschbär.

To continue ranking, we need your support!
Rank a Brand is a completely independent, non-profit organization that runs on donations from consumers like you, who share our vision for a fairer and more sustainable world. If you can spare a portion of your December shopping budget, we can keep offering you up-to-date information on the sustainability of hundreds of brands in the areas of fashion, food and beverages, electronics, body care and many other sectors, and increase the pressure on these brands to become more sustainable, socially responsible and transparent.

You can support us in the following ways:

  • Become Friend of Rank a Brand with a donation of €25 per year and join our community of responsible consumers – simply click on the link and complete the form.
  • Donate directly by bank transfer to IBAN: NL43 TRIO 0390 2148 41 (BIC: TRIONL2U) Rank a Brand, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Join our team of volunteers and help keep our rankings up-to-date. See Research with us for more information.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn for updates on the latest rankings.

Share this post with your network!

Soda brand performance fizzles out

There’s nothing more refreshing than a can or bottle of ice-cold soda. What is less refreshing is the sustainability performance of many popular soda brands. Soda brands face challenges with regards to energy and water use, the need for sustainable and recyclable packaging, and ethically sourced sugar and other raw materials – and Rank a Brand’s latest ranking in this sector shows that many soda brands are not up to scratch.

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Rank a Brand reviewed the sustainability performance of 29 soda brands. This review includes an assessment of brands’ policies on climate protection, environmental protection and labour rights. The overall conclusion to be drawn is that there is still a lot of work to be done for soda brands to improve their performance. Only one brand, Lemonaid, scored a B-label, but 26 out of the 29 brands scored either a D- or E-label.

The high scorers
Lemonaid, a German brand, was by far the best performer in the sector – scoring 14 of a possible 24 points. Lemonaid performs especially well with its labour policy, and uses environmentally certified sugar and raw materials for its products. Two other German brands, Bionade and Premium-Cola, earned a C-label, both scoring 11 out of 24 points. Bionade scored well on its environmental policy, while Premium-Cola does better on its labour policy.

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The general trends
As mentioned, the overall trend across all brands is poor. While almost all brands have a policy to deal with greenhouse gas emissions, and a number of brands have environmental protection and fair labour policies – it is important to stress that these are only policies, they are not an indicator of a brand’s actual performance. The brands owned by soda giants Coca-Cola (which includes Fanta and Sprite), PepsiCo (which includes 7UP), Dr Pepper, and Red Bull, all scored either D- or E-labels. In addition, the brands Raak and The Original London both scored zero points.

When it comes to reporting on concrete results, only 18% of brands reported a reduction or compensation of their climate footprint by at least 10% in the last five years. Only two brands, Bionade and Premium-Cola, sufficiently report on their use of energy from renewable sources. Finally, despite 42% of brands publishing a fair labour policy, only one brand (Lemonaid) purchases all its ingredients from socially certified sources.

Support our work
To be able to do our work, we need your support. Besides your contribution as a responsible consumer making informed decisions using our website, you can also support us financially or by helping in our research as a volunteer. If you want to support the work of Rank a Brand we invite you to become a Friend of Rank a Brand. We ask our Friends to make a contribution of €25 per year, or a higher amount if you can afford it, to enable our work. You will have a say in the sectors and brands that we will assess and can contribute to the further development of our criteria. See our website for more info and please share this post.

Do you want to be kept up to date about our research of the sustainability performance of well-known brands? Then follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and LinkedIn. Or, subscribe to our newsletter through our website.

Beer must be consumed, but also manufactured responsibly

When one considers beer brands, they most likely think about the importance of responsible consumption rather than responsible production. Of course, responsible consumption of beer is paramount. However, beer brands have a number of unique issues compared to other sectors, including efficiency per liter produced (water, energy, and greenhouse gas emissions) and the opportunity to use environmentally preferred ingredients, such as organically certified.

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Rank a Brand reviewed the sustainability performance of 33 beer brands. For this research, we looked at the performance of beer brands on multiple issues in the areas of climate and the environment. The conclusion was that, in general, beer brands have considerable room for improvement given that out of 33 brands, only one brand, Neumarkter Lammsbräu, achieved a B-label, while more than one-third of the brands received an E-label. If you would like more information on the general trends in the Beer sector, please read the Beer Ranking 2016 Report.

The high scorers
The best performing brand is Neumarkter Lammsbräu, receiving 16 out of a possible 23 points, and resulting in a score of about 70%. With this score, the brand receives a B-label, meaning it is on track towards sustainability. Among others, Neumarkter Lammsbräu performs notably well in the area of reporting the climate footprint of sourcing its ingredients, which all other brands fail to do. The next highest performing brand, receiving a C-label, is Gulpener. This is the only brand other than Neumarkter Lammsbräu that reports the use of organic or otherwise environmentally certified raw materials for at least 90% of its production volume. Brand, a C-label brand is notably the most efficient when it comes to kilograms of greenhouse gases released per litre produced, achieving a rate below 5,5 kg CO2/litre.

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The general trends
The overall performance of the industry is not impressive. Out of the 33 brands, 12 received lower than 9% of the points possible, resulting in an E-label, meaning responsible consumers should avoid buying these brands until they show better performance. The lowest performing brand is the bavarian wheat beer Erdinger, receiving a score of zero.

A positive note is that all but one brand have published some sort of policy to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and the majority of brands have also described clear objectives to minimize the environmental impact of packaging. However, these are only policies, and do not necessarily translate into concrete initiatives and convincing results. Less than half of the brands disclosed verifiable climate footprints. Furthermore, concrete reporting on the use of at least 25% renewable energy was only reached by two brands: Gulpener and Rothaus.

Support our work
To be able to do our work, we need your support. Besides your contribution as a responsible consumer making informed decisions using our website, you can also support us financially or by helping in our research as a volunteer. If you want to support the work of Rank a Brand we invite you to become Friend of Rank a Brand. We ask from our Friends a contribution of €25 per year, or a higher amount if you can afford it, to enable our work. You will have a say in the sectors and brands that we will assess and can contribute to the further development of our criteria. See our website for more info and please share this post.

Do you want to be kept up to date about our research of the sustainability performance of well-known brands? Then follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Or, subscribe to our newsletter through our website.

Sustainability cosmetics sector not fit for beauty contest

For the first time, in cooperation with StoereVrouwen (translated as ‘Tough Women in a powerful way’), Rank a Brand took a look at the sustainability performance of 30 cosmetics brands. For 10 years, StoereVrouwen has been a Dutch platform and campaign agency that has encouraged consumers to realize the power of their purses by spending their money on brands and companies who they can endorse. StoereVrouwen puts sustainability on the agenda with campaigns like Natural Beauty Case, Strip for Fair Fashion, and Fair Valentine.

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For this research, we looked at the performance of cosmetics brands on multiple issues in the areas of climate, environment, animal welfare, health, and labour conditions. The full report can be found here. The general finding was that, just like in most sectors, the great majority of brands still perform poorly. Luckily, there are multiple exceptions for ethical consumers.

The winner(s)
The best performing brand is Weleda, receiving 17 out of a possible 26 points, which results in a score of 65%. With this score, the brand receives a B label, meaning it is on track towards sustainability. Weleda performs especially well in the area of environmental and health policy. The brand only uses natural ingredients for its products, and does not use possible harmful substances like synthetic fragrances. Weleda also refrains from animal testing; uses mostly renewable and/or organic ingredients; and has thorough policies in place to reduce its water footprint, material footprint, waste, and packaging.

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With a score of 58%, Dr. Hauschka, Logona and Santé also receive a B label. Just like Weleda, they perform well in the area of environmental and health policy. This is achieved by initiatives including limiting the use of hazardous substances, not using petroleum-based ingredients at all, and minimizing waste (including reporting on its annual waste materials footprint). Four other brands perform reasonably well: Botanique (54%), Lavera, Living Nature, and Zao (all three with a score of 46%). For this level of performance, they achieve the C label, meaning they are on their way towards sustainability, but still have plenty room for improvement in terms of more specific reporting.

The general trend
The general performance of the industry is not something to be proud of. Out of the 30 brands, 22 received a score lower than 30%. Of these brands, 9 received the lowest possible label, the E label, meaning responsible consumers should avoid buying these brands until they show better performance. Among these worst performing brands are well-known names like Estée Lauder, Rimmel London and Aveda.

A positive note is that all brands have published some sort of policy to reduce their carbon emissions. Unfortunately, this policy is the only initiative many of these brands have undertaken in regards to climate change. About a quarter of the brands disclosed their carbon footprints. However, concrete reporting on the use of at least 25% renewable electricity was only reached by one brand: Botanique. Other brands state that they are using renewable energy as well, but reporting on type of energy as well as its sources and additionality of supply are not yet clear enough to receive full points for this criterion.

Another area where a lot of ground needs to be covered is labour conditions. As many of the ingredients come from low wage countries, brands need to take responsibility for the ethical treatment of workers in these countries. Although all of the brands scored poorly on three of the four criteria in this area (no or insufficient information is published), the majority of the brands (77%) already purchase tropical ingredients from plantations that are socially certified to have no child and/or forced labour, and provide a better living standard for the farmers, at least to some extent.

Support our work
To be able to do our work, we need your support. Besides your contribution as a responsible consumer making informed decisions using our website, you can also support us financially or by helping in our research as a volunteer. If you want to support the work of Rank a Brand, we invite you to become Friend of Rank a Brand. We ask from our Friends a contribution of €25 per year, or a higher amount if you can afford, to enable our work. You will have a say in the sectors and brands that we will assess and can contribute to the further development of our criteria. See our website for more information and please share this post.

Do you want to be kept up to date about our research of the sustainability performance of well-known brands? Then follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Or, subscribe to our newsletter through our website.

Top brands failing on cotton sustainability

Cotton is one of the world’s most commonly used textiles. However, the production of cotton has led to serious issues regarding environmental impact and labour conditions of cotton farmers. Although various sustainability initiatives exist, many problems and challenges remain, and the overall picture of cotton market sustainability is unclear. In order to shed light on current progress and where further action is needed, Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK), Solidaridad, and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have commissioned Rank a Brand to research the major cotton-using companies on policies, actual uptake, and traceability regarding more sustainable cotton; i.e. organic cotton, Fairtrade cotton, Cotton made in Africa (CmiA), Better Cotton (BCI) or recycled cotton.

The report creates a transparent overview of the current sustainable sourcing performance of cotton-using companies and offers recommendations for improvement. We studied 37 companies that are estimated to source the most cotton globally, and scored them on three dimensions: policy, actual uptake, and traceability. The scorecard provides a comparison of each company’s performance in regards to sustainable cotton.

The full report can be found here.

Summary of main results

In this research, the maximum achievable score was 19.5 points. No company achieved this maximum score, mainly due to the fact that no company uses 100% more sustainable cotton or is fully transparent on their policies and on the sourcing and manufacturers of their cotton. Of the 37 companies evaluated, only eight companies scored at least 3.0 out of 19.5 points. IKEA Group is the best performing company, with a score of 12.0 points. C&A Global (9.0 points), H&M Group (9.0 points), and Adidas Group (7.75 points) also show some progress on sustainable cotton policies, actual uptake, and supply chain traceability. Six companies scored less than 1.0 point. Twelve companies provided little or no information on their sustainable cotton policies, and therefore, scored 0 points. Companies could be doing better than these results reflect, but not communicate their policies and practices to consumers. It is also possible that some brands do better than the company as a whole, as sustainability practices can vary significantly between different brands owned by the same company. We have assessed at company level because PAN UK, Solidaridad, and WWF expect entire companies shift to more sustainable cotton uptake.

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A number of companies participate in sustainable cotton initiatives. For example, ten of the assessed companies participate in the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). Companies that participate in BCI support actions on minimizing the use of highly hazardous pesticides (HHP), improving working conditions, addressing biodiversity issues, and reducing water consumption. Some companies also participate in other collaborative initiatives and/or cotton programmes. In addition to using more BCI, Fairtrade or CmiA cotton, some companies focus on using organic and/or recycled cotton.

The top scoring company for this report, IKEA Group, uses about 78% of its cotton from more sustainable sources according to the standards applied in this research. Most of the companies analysed do not have clear policies on sustainable cotton. In general, there is still a significant lack of information on sustainable cotton policies, actual uptake, and supply chain traceability in the industry.

Main conclusions

While there are multiple companies that work hard to set the right example, there is significant room and need for improvement in company sourcing and reporting on sustainable cotton, as well as an opportunity to drive market transformation. This research highlights positive developments and outcomes in regards to these companies’ achievements in sustainable cotton. This research clearly demonstrates the widespread absence of publicly available information, concerning the topics addressed for the research conducted for this report. While major brands and manufacturers have published various policies regarding commitments to using more sustainable cotton, traceability throughout the entire supply chain of cotton is necessary to further report on the uptake and implementation of these policies.

Main recommendations

For low scoring companies, we recommend that these companies adopt a policy for more sustainable cotton. After adopting a policy for more sustainable cotton, companies should also adopt a time bound and public target to source more sustainable cotton. Companies may also choose to take part in an organization like Better Cotton Initiative. Companies that have already implemented these initiatives and have received relatively higher scores can continue to improve by mapping their supply chain and using traceability tools.

Multiple standards can be applied for the sourcing of more sustainable cotton. Based on the WWF Certification Assessment Tool, we find that the following currently available standards are the most credible for more sustainable cotton at the production level:

  • Organic cotton,
  • Fairtrade cotton,
  • Cotton made in Africa (CmiA),
  • Better Cotton (from the Better Cotton Initiative – BCI).

Another, non-standardized sustainable option is recycled cotton.

The leading companies assessed in this report made good progress by collaborating with the Better Cotton Initiative. Still, to achieve a sustainable cotton supply chain, more action is needed. Cotton-dependent companies should take responsibility for their impacts and encourage the sourcing of more sustainable cotton. These companies need to continue sending market signals by increasing their purchases of cotton from credible sustainability programmes and reporting transparently on their cotton sourcing. In doing so, these companies would make a major impact for the better, both environmentally and socially.

 

Support our work

To be able to do our work, we need your support. Besides your contribution as a responsible consumer making informed decisions using our website, you can also support us financially or by helping in our research as a volunteer. If you want to support the work of Rank a Brand we invite you to become Friend of Rank a Brand. We ask from our Friends a contribution of €25 per year, or a higher amount if you can afford, to enable our work. You will have a say in the sectors and brands that we will assess and can contribute to the further development of our criteria. See our website for more info and please share this post.

Do you want to be kept up date about our research of the sustainability performance of well-known brands? Then follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Or, subscribe to our newsletter through our website.

Electronics Brands: It’s Time to Super Charge Sustainability

One Electronics brand (Fairphone) sets an example while three other brands (Asus, Apple, and HP) have made progress for the Electronics sector in regards to sustainability by embracing the challenges and opportunities associated with the Electronics sector. One brand, Fairphone, received a “B” label, and three brands, Asus, Apple, and HP received a “C” label for the Electronics sector ranking. The remaining 15 brands received either a “D” or “E” label. Due to the challenges associated with the Electronics sector, Electronics brands must influence sustainability during the entire lifecycle of their products, from mining minerals and choosing chemicals, to responsible disposal or recycling at the end of a product’s useful life.

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However, many Electronics brands have not yet capitalized on the opportunity to implement initiatives in regards to issues such as product energy efficiency, extension of products’ useful life, product recycling/takeback, elimination of toxic materials/suspect chemicals from products, and avoidance of conflict minerals. The Electronics sector has the opportunity to “supercharge” efforts to be more sustainable, and place these initiatives at the forefront of this sector’s operations. However, many brands have not become actively involved in the unique opportunities the Electronics sector presents.

At the beginning of the electronics life cycle, minerals are mined from the Earth and toxic materials/suspect chemicals are used to assemble electronic products. For example, according to Greenpeace, common plastics and flame retardants used in electronics result in some of the most toxic chemicals known, especially during production at the end of a product’s useful lifecycle. The process of mining electronic products’ materials is also a sustainability issue, especially for conflict minerals. These minerals are mined in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo or surrounding nations, and profits from these minerals support human rights violations in these countries. A number of initiatives have been developed to address conflict minerals.

During a product’s useful life, brands have the opportunity to make their products more sustainable while they are in use by consumers. Certifications such as Energy Star indicate reduction of energy consumption by about 30-50%, depending on the type of product. With technology advancing at an ever-increasing rate, electronics are becoming outdated faster than ever before. Some companies have even been known to design their products such that they will only last a short amount of time, forcing consumers to throw away the device and purchase a newer model. This pattern of a high-throughput electronics lifecycle is problematic because in 2014, the United Nations University estimated that approximately 41.8 million metric tonnes of E-Waste was generated globally, while only about 15% of this waste was taken back and/or recycled. By 2018, E-waste generation is expected to reach 50 million metric tonnes.

Electronics brands can help address this issue by implementing product recycling and takeback programs to encourage consumers to dispose of our recycle their electronics responsibly. In doing so, Electronics brands can even remove valuable materials from old devices, and re-use them in new devices, thus closing the loop on their products and contributing to a circular economy. If E-Waste is not disposed of or recycled properly, it can be extremely problematic when disposed of in developing nations at open dumps that contaminate groundwater or is burnt in open pits, thereby resulting in the release of toxic chemicals into the air.

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Of the brands analyzed for this research, Fairphone scored the highest ranking, a “B” label, on a scale from A (best) to E (worst). Fairphone is the only brand out of those researched to report clear enough on its labor conditions policy and respective results realized at its supplying production facility. Similarly, Fairphone is the only brand that offers chargers for its product as an option only, uses at least 20% recycled plastic for its device, implements an active policy in place to increase the product life –span, and uses only replaceable batteries in its device. Apple is the best-performing brand for this sector in regards to climate change policy, scoring all but one of the maximum possible points on its reported initiatives for this topic. HP is also among the top-performing brands. For instance, it clearly reports on its measures to reduce its water use for its own operations as well as its suppliers.

When you are looking for more specific information on brands, a list of the brands can be found here. We hope to see some Electronics brands receiving higher labels in the future! To encourage your favorite Electronics brands to become more sustainable, you can send them a message through each individual brand’s page on the Rank a Brand website.

 

Support our work

To be able to do our work, we need your support. Besides your contribution as a responsible consumer making informed decisions using our website, you can also support us financially or by helping in our research as a volunteer. If you want to support the work of Rank a Brand we invite you to become Friend of Rank a Brand. We ask from our Friends a contribution of €25 per year, or a higher amount if you can afford, to enable our work. You will have a say in the sectors and brands that we will assess and can contribute to the further development of our criteria. See our website for more info and please share this post.

Do you want to be kept up date about our research of the sustainability performance of well-known brands? Then follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Or, subscribe to our newsletter through our website.

Webshops…Bringing Brands Unsustainably Right to Your Door

Webshops have one distinct advantage over typical consumer retail businesses in that they aren’t located in actual buildings that consume electricity, water, and natural gas; generate waste; and take up space in areas that were previously natural habitats. However, despite these advantages in regards to sustainability, the Webshops sector has its own set of issues, especially in regards to greenhouse gas emissions from logistics, packaging from shipments, and an environmental footprint from consumers returning products to sellers.
In Germany, every third online order is returned, which results in over 250 million returned products annually. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, approximately 5.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world are the result of the transportation/logistics sector. In the United States, where the reliance on plastics and unnecessary packaging is common, packaging adds 29 million tons of non-biodegradable waste to landfills every year.

Overall, the Webshops sector performs quite poorly in regards to sustainability compared to other sectors such as Telecomunication (for instance Vodafone or Telekom), Website (for instance Google or Facebook) or Fashion Retailers (for instance Zara or Asos). Compared to the previous year’s rankings of Webshops, none of the brands received a higher grade label (i.e., an improvement from a C-label to a B-label). No brand scored above C-label, and of the 20 brands, 18 received an E-label, which is considered the lowest score. The Webshops sector is a sector with many relatively new brands, and therefore, one would expect more ambition and innovation on behalf of these brands in regards to their sustainability efforts. Half of the brands failed to implement a policy to reduce or minimize carbon emissions and none of the brands have taken steps to reduce the impact of their packaging by reusing or recycling or reducing the weight of packaging materials.

The German mail order brand Otto stands out as the only brand to receive a C-label, primarily due to its efforts in the areas of reducing and disclosing its climate footprint, providing environmentally and socially preferable options and information regarding the sustainability of these options to its consumers, reporting its paper materials footprint, and implementing labor conditions policies for its own employees as well temporary staff and suppliers. Similarly, the Dutch webshop bol.com receives a higher label compared to the other brands in that it received the next highest score, a D-label. Bol.com demonstrates exceptional efforts in that 95% of its shipping boxes are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. However, all of the Webshops brands have considerable room for improvement in their sustainability efforts.

Scorecard-Webshop-update-2016-EN

When you are looking for more specific information on brands, a list of the brands can be found here for Webshops. We hope to see some Webshops brands receiving higher labels in the future! To encourage your favorite Webshops brands to become more sustainable, you can send them a message through each individual brand’s page on the Rank a Brand website.

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